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HESA Data Shows Rise in non-EU Students

Posted by Calum Martin in ,

Key Findings

  • In 2021-22 total full-time students increased by 3.9% year-on-year (YoY) (2020: 7.5%).
  • Growth was driven primarily by a huge increase in non-EU students (ex-UK) (+100k).
  • The pace of growth in UK-domiciled students dropped significantly to just 0.9% (2020: 7.2%).
  • Full-time students from China and India now equate to more than the next 28 countries combined.
  • Whilst full-time students were up overall, student growth varied significantly between institutions.

Latest HESA Numbers - 2021-22

The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) has released the latest full-time student figures covering the 2021-22 academic year. Despite concerns surrounding potential student hesitation amid the pandemic, full-time numbers have continued to rise.

Excluding alternative providers, full-time students grew by 3.9% year-on-year (+82.4K). By comparison, the rate of growth is down from the previous year, in which an uplift of 7.5% was reported (+146.4K).

Looking specifically at enrolments from the UK, 2021-22 saw an increase of 14.3K full-time students, however, this only equated to a rise of 0.9%. This is a vast difference from the previous academic year, in which UK student enrolments grew by a staggering 7.2% (+104.3K).

Whilst the growth last year was largely attributed to a rise in UK students, the momentum in 2021-22 shifted towards non-EU internationals. Students from this domicile grew by an astonishing 24.5%, which represents the largest percentage growth recorded by any group in over a decade. This vast jump equates to an additional 99.8K students, which almost rivals the huge spike in UK students seen last year. This is hugely positive for the purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) sector, which often appeals more to non-EU internationals. This sizeable increase can likely be attributed to the introduction of the government's Graduate Route visa scheme, which helped make the UK a more attractive location for prospective students. Introduced in July 2021, the Visa grants permission for graduates of UK higher education courses to stay in the UK for 2-3 years after completing their course. Graduates can work in most jobs with this Visa, do voluntary work, be self-employed, travel abroad, and return to the UK.

As expected, 2021-22 saw a drastic fall in full-time EU students. This is likely a result of the loss of home fee status, as this was the first academic year in which EU students were required to pay full international fees. This could also explain the growth of 4.2% recorded in 2020-21, as students from this group were incentivised to beat the change in legislation. Year-on-year enrolments from the EU were down 23.3%, representing 31.7K fewer students; the largest decline on record.

Figure 1: YoY Growth by Domicile

Figure 1 YoY Growth by Domicile max-width:100 height=

International Growth

In terms of non-EU students, China remains the dominant country of origin. Full-time students have grown by 5.9% YoY, reflecting an additional 8.3K students. This rise in students from China has been steady in recent years, and the increase in 2021-22 took total enrolments to 148.7K, representing a staggering 29.3% of all non-EU (ex-UK) internationals. The trend also remains extremely positive over the long term, with full-time numbers increasing by 75.2% since 2014.

Whilst Chinese-domiciled students still hold the dominant share, the second-place gap has closed substantially. Indian-domiciled students have seen an exponential rise over the past several years, becoming only the second country to reach over 100K students. Year-on-year, Indian students increased by a sizeable 42.0K, which represents an uplift of 53.9%. Whilst this is not only larger than the number of students from third place Nigeria, it also follows two huge years of growth of 49.7% and 105.0% in 2020-21 and 2019-20 respectively. Since 2014, student enrolments from India have increased by a staggering 651.7%, albeit this is from a relatively low base when compared to China. This long-term increase is also the most significant percentage rise from any country outside of the UK, taking the total international share for Indian students to 23.7%.

With the upwards trajectory recorded recently, students from India and China equate to more than the next 28 largest countries combined.

The rest of the top five countries are Nigeria, Pakistan and the United States. Year-on-year growth was particularly high for Nigeria at 112.5% or an additional 21.9K students. The United States reported modest growth of 16.3% (+2.8K), which is 45.3% higher than recorded in 2014.

The increase in students from Pakistan in 2021-22 saw the country overtake the United States in 4th place. With the additional 10.4K enrolments, there were 88.2% more students year-on-year. Since 2014, students from Pakistan have risen by a substantial 296.8% (16.5K).

Figure 2: Full-time Student Growth by Country

Figure 2 Growth by Country max-width:100 height=

Performance by Institution

At an institutional level, performance has varied once again.

In terms of both percentage and the additional number of full-time students year-on-year, Canterbury Christ Church University showed the largest growth, expanding its student enrolments by 59.9%, representing an increase of 7.9K students. This rate of growth is up from the prior year, which saw numbers jump by 29.5% (+3.0K).

The University of Glasgow also performed strongly, reporting the second-highest rise in full-time students at 5.0K.

Universities such as Bath Spa, Leeds Trinity and The University of West London have all performed particularly well, reporting growth rates of 54.8%, 41.5% and 26.6% respectively.

On the other end of the scale, several institutions reported a decline in full-time students.

The most significant decrease reported was from the University of Portsmouth, where full-time numbers fell by 2.4K (-10.1%) YoY. This was due to a reduction of 3.1K of undergraduate students. UK-domiciled students fell by 14.6%, while EU students fell by 24.7%.

In percentage terms, Southampton Solent University reported one of the largest drops of 14.6%, taking their full-time student count to 8.9K. This was made up of students from all domicile groups, most notably EU numbers which fell by 34.7%.

Other examples of institutions recording YoY losses are The University of Surrey, Coventry University and The University of Wolverhampton at 6.3%, 2.7% and 4.8% respectively.

Figure 3: YoY Change in Students (Select Institutions)

Figure 3 YoY Change in Students by HEI max-width:100 height=

Performance by Institution (Indexed 2011, Select Institutions)

Expanding on full-time numbers over the past decade can help to better understand student trends on a locational basis, as well as help to forecast demand more effectively. Figure 4 below details the growth of 8 institutions since 2011.

Glasgow has expanded at a rapid pace relative to other cities, with enrolments at the University of Glasgow increasing by 15.7K students since 2011, representing growth of 75.7%.

Up until 2019, Canterbury Christ Church University had reported a small decline, however, the past 2 years of rapid growth have seen an additional 9.8K enrolments at the University.

Another of the stronger performers is Leeds Trinity, with an uplift of 7.0K students in the 10-year timeframe.

Not all institutions have grown since 2011, for example, the University of Hull has recorded a decline of 2.9K (-19.2%).

Figure 4: Full-time Student Growth (Selected Institutions, Indexed 2011)

Figure 4 Change in Students Indexed 2011 max-width:100 height=

Non-EU Internationals - Performance by Institution

Isolating changes to non-EU (ex-UK) numbers, the vast majority of universities reported strong growth. Excluding alternative providers, just 3 institutes reported a loss of more than 100 students.

The University of Glasgow reported the largest increase, with an additional 4.3K full-time non-EU internationals, representing an uplift of 43.3%. This is a slight rise in the rate of growth reported in the previous year of 41.4%.

In terms of percentage, The University of the West of Scotland saw a huge jump in internationals of 142.9% (+2.7K).

Whilst not exhaustive, figure 5 below details some of the additional institutions reporting significant growth.

Figure 5: Non-EU Growth (Select Institutions)

Figure 5 Non-EU Growth (Select Unis) max-width:100 height=

The latest data from HESA again highlights the importance of knowing your local markets in detail, with national trends not reflective of changes at an institutional level.

For stakeholders in the student accommodation market, staying up to date with the latest trends and insights at a granular level can help industry leaders make more informed decisions.

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