Half of international students did not feel completely ready for courses – poll

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Half of international applicants to UK universities did not feel completely ready to start their course ahead of the current academic year, a survey suggests.

Nearly three in four (72%) international applicants wanted more information about what their year would look like and how the pandemic would impact it, according to a report from Ucas.

The university admissions service said there is a need for more information on accommodation, funding, employment options and visa applications for international students looking to study in the UK.

A survey of more than 500 international applicants to UK higher education providers during summer 2021 found that 50% felt somewhat ready or not ready at all for the start of this academic year.

The Ucas report highlighted that undergraduate applications from outside the European Union continue to rise, and are up this year by more than 12% to a record 111,255, with 54,030 placed.

China is the largest market for UK international student recruitment, with 30,845 applicants and 16,310 people placed during the 2021 application cycle. It provides more applicants than Wales and Northern Ireland and almost as many as the whole of the EU.

Approximately two in nine placed applicants who entered UK higher education in 2021 were from China, according to the Ucas paper.

“This highlights a potential risk to the sustainability of the UK’s international student recruitment should these high-volume markets be disrupted,” it added.

The report said the large fall in applications from the EU have been impacted by a range of factors, including the uncertainty associated with the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

There are signs that younger age groups, and applicants from Europe, are “feeling less positive” about the UK, the paper added.

Around 11% of applicants aged 17 and 18 think the UK is a worse option than the other countries they are considering, the poll found.

York St John’s University – York
York St John’s University (Anna Gowthorpe/PA)

Clare Marchant, chief executive of Ucas, said: “Students from around the world continue to hold the UK’s universities and colleges in incredibly high regard.

“From our world class academic offering to the opportunities to live and learn as part of a diverse society, the UK is clearly a destination of choice for students looking to study internationally.

“However, they are saying they need better support as they research their futures.”

Ucas has developed a new platform for international postgraduate students which allows them to search for universities and colleges, courses, accommodation, part-time jobs and scholarships.

Ms Marchant added: “As part of Ucas’s trusted and independent role, we want to provide the valued information students need to make truly informed decisions as we continue to emerge from the pandemic.”

Vivienne Stern, director of Universities UK (UUK) International, said: “UK universities have been working exceptionally hard to continue to welcome and support international students during these times.

“It is therefore really promising to see that 88% of international applicants view the UK as a positive or very positive place to study.

“The collaborative way in which the UK sector has worked has been particularly instrumental in tackling international student recruitment challenges during Covid-19.

“Moving forward, I hope we can take a similar approach so that students have the information they need, and that student perceptions of UK higher education continue to improve.”

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