The first full survey of student numbers has indicated that overseas intakes at some of the largest research campuses in England have dropped by about a third in the first academic year since the coronavirus pandemic.
However, others have seen an increase in student enrolment from outside the European Union despite previous predictions that there could be a loss of up to £460 million in income from a 20% fall in East Asian students alone.
The data is provided by the Office for Students’ Higher Education Students Early Statistics (HESES) survey, which asks universities to record their likely total student numbers for the 2020-21 academic year, including students expected to start after the survey census date on 1 December.
The survey does not include certain students, such as those who are expected to study online for at least half a year of their studies from abroad.
In comparison with the 2019-20 survey, this year’s data indicates that physical full-time overseas entrants to undergraduate and taught postgraduate courses could be at least 15% lower at many universities. Estimated overseas intakes at the universities of Nottingham, Leeds and Liverpool are over 30% below their 2019-20 numbers.
Despite this, some Russell Group universities are expecting to see an increase in overseas students this year, which could be as high as 29% at University College London and 53% at the University of York.
The survey reflected a disparity among institutions’ overseas intakes, which range from falls of almost 50% at De Montfort University to over a threefold increase in non-EU entrants at the University of Bedfordshire.
The approximate number of full-time undergraduate and postgraduate taught students from outside the EU who were due to start courses after the census date stands at 23,000. This figure is expected to double to approximately 50,000 this year.
The number of new PhD students at Durham University has dropped by 300, but other institutions were expecting to see the opposite, with large rises at the universities of Oxford and Manchester.
Study UK, a campaign that promotes studying in Britain, has tried to reassure international students, saying British universities are “providing high quality, flexible options to international students, such as studying online or facilitating later start dates”.