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Examining UK Universities’ Reliance on Chinese Students

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According to HESA, Chinese students accounted for 26% of first year international students in the UK in the 2021/22 academic year, the highest proportion made up by any singular demographic. The British Council reports that, in 2021, Chinese students spent £5.4bn on tuition and other expenses. As the £9,250 domestic tuition fee was effectively frozen in 2016, universities in the UK have become more reliant on non-EU students, who can pay up to £38,000 per year in fees. 

StuRents data has found that students from Asia are more likely to spend more on accommodation too. Students from Asia are viewing properties at an average price of £192 per week, excluding London, which is 31% higher than their domestic counterparts. 

According to projections from UCA, long-term demand from China is set to keep growing. More efforts are being made to market higher education in Britain to Chinese school leavers, with the University of Manchester appointing six education agents in major Chinese cities to recommend universities to prospective students and assist with their applications. According to estimates from the British Universities’ International Liaison Association, about half of the non-EU international students at British universities are recruited through agencies.

Business is still the most popular degree choice for Chinese students in the UK, making up 26% of all acceptances in 2023. However, the number of Chinese students enrolled in creative arts degrees in the UK has nearly tripled in the last ten years, now accounting for 11% of all Chinese acceptances according to UCAS. The demand for Business degrees is also falling, as the subject accounted for 43% of acceptances in 2013. 

Read the full story in The Financial Times.


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