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More Chinese than NI students apply to GB universities

Applications from outside the EU reached a record number of 81,340, up by 8% on last year, according to the latest report from the university admissions service (stock photo)
Applications from outside the EU reached a record number of 81,340, up by 8% on last year, according to the latest report from the university admissions service (stock photo)

By Eleanor Busby

The number of Chinese students applying for places at British universities has overtaken those from Northern Ireland for the first time, official figures show.

Chinese applicant numbers for degrees starting in autumn surged by 30% to 19,760 this year, while the number of applicants from Northern Ireland fell by 4% to 18,520, Ucas data revealed.

Applications from outside the EU reached a record number of 81,340, up by 8% on last year, according to the latest report from the university admissions service.

The figures taken from Ucas' June deadline, which is the last chance to apply to five universities or colleges simultaneously, also showed a 1% rise in EU applicants despite fears over Brexit.

A fall in the pound since the Brexit vote may have contributed to a rise in applications from international and EU students, experts suggested, as it makes Britain a cheaper place to study.

In England, a record 39.5% of all 18-year-olds applied to study at a UK university - an increase from 38.1% on last year.

The number of young people from the UK applying to a British university also rose by 1%, despite a 1.9% fall in the overall number of 18-year-olds in the UK population.

Ucas chief executive Clare Marchant said: "The global appeal of UK higher education has never been clearer, with record, demographic-beating application rates in England and Wales and the steep rise in international applications, especially from China."

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute think tank, said: "Chinese students appreciate our world-class universities, want to learn in English and have benefited from the reduction in the value of the pound since 2016. It is fantastic that so many Chinese students want to come here because they make our universities better and more diverse."

But he warned: "It does mean a chunky source of university income is very sensitive to the strength of the political relationship between China and the UK at any given point."

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive at Universities UK, said: "Our universities have a well-deserved global reputation for high-quality teaching, learning and research, delivered by talented staff. Students report rising levels of satisfaction with courses.

"This is recognised by the increase in the number of international student applications - a record rise from outside the EU - which will bring significant economic benefits to the whole of the UK and enrich our university campuses."

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