New UCAS data shows that university applications from China have grown by 12% over the past year to 28,930 applicants. This makes the country the third biggest market for UK universities as more applicants come from China than Wales and Northern Ireland.

Clare Marchant, Chief Executive at UCAS, said that, as the UK recovers from the Covid pandemic, this year ‘was always going to be pivotal for the international student market.’

Marchant explained in a statement: ‘While applications have been very resilient throughout the pandemic, the robust demand from China, India and Hong Kong, as well as demand from a number of new and emerging global regions, shows the enduring appeal of our world-class universities.”

The total number of international students applying to UK universities so far this year is 111,410. The UCAS report also details that the number of applicants from outside the EU continues to rise and is currently up 5% to 90,590.

Tom Tugendhat, Conservative MP for Tonbridge and Malling and chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, discussed the UK education system’s dependence on Chinese applicants in a piece for the Financial Times.

He wrote: ‘If the number of Chinese students willing to study in the UK were to substantially decrease, as the result of geopolitical tensions, for instance, some of our universities could be left in dire straits. Nine British universities collect more than a fifth of their fee income from Chinese-domiciled students.’

University of Glasgow

As the increasing number of Chinese applicants encourages scrutiny of the impact this has on UK universities, Radio 4 has produced a documentary with several Chinese students at Glasgow University to share their stories.

What they found in the documentary ‘belied many of the stereotypes and raised concerns that have received scant attention.’

According to The Independent, the UK Home Office said that 428,428 sponsored study visas were granted in the year ending September 2021. 135,457 of these were granted to Chinese nationals, which accounts for 32% of the total number of these visas granted.

Dimitrios Buhalis, deputy director of the international centre for tourism and hospitality research at Bournemouth University, told The Independent that the Chinese student market ‘is very important for the UK educational system.’

Buhalis said: ‘Chinese students enrolled in higher education institutions are not only paying international fees, but also staying in university accommodation and spending living expenses, making a significant contribution to the British economy in many cities with leading universities.’

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