Travel restrictions, absence of in-person classes and activities, strict lockdowns, and other challenges posed by COVID-19 have not deterred Indian students from applying to UK universities. The UK continues to be a preferred destination for international students and this has been reflected in recent university application trends.
Undergraduate applications from Indian aspirants to UK universities have increased by 30 percent since 2020, as per statistics from the UK’s centralized higher education application system. An analysis by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) reflects that as of June 30, which was also the deadline for applications for the new academic year, as many as 9,930 applications were made by Indian students, as compared to last year’s 7,640 applications.
The highest number of applicants are in the 18-year age group with 5,330 applicants in 2021, up from 4,350 in 2020. Out of the 9,930 applicants until June 2021, 4,610 were women.
Data also shows that even in 2020, the trend of the country’s growing popularity among Indians is not hampered despite the beginning of the pandemic. In 2019, the number of applicants was 6,210 as compared to the 7,640 applicants in 2020.
Richard O’Kelly, head of analytical data, UCAS, explains this. “Non-EU applicant numbers are up on last year. The impact of the introduction of the Graduate route for international students looking to stay in the UK after their course is clearly substantial. Not least in students from India, where the number of applicants in 2021 is 9,930. Compare that to 6,210 at this point in 2019, and it’s a 60 percent increase in just 24 months.”
These statistics include those who applied by the end of June and were able to apply for up to five full-time undergraduate courses simultaneously (provided that the course is still accepting applications).
The beginning of the pandemic early last year and its impact during the rest of 2020 did not affect plans of international students to study in the UK. Universities in the country are preparing themselves to welcome applicants wanting to start in 2021. Students can choose from degree programs to higher and degree apprenticeships. Institutions also intend to expand capacity on some courses to meet growing demand where possible, says a UCAS analysis.
“We expect a rise in students with confirmed places from September,” O’Kelly says. There has also been a rise in the number of applicants from non-EU countries. While in 2020 there were just over 89,000 applicants, this rose by 14 percent in 2021 to cross 100,000.
The UK government’s decision to open the Graduate route from July 1, 2021 and COVID concessions on visa rules (about the requirement to be in the UK to study) being extended until April 6, 2022 for the next intake are also some of the reasons for this increase in applications.
The number of applicants from China, which is the largest international student group in the UK, also grew from 13,420 in 2020 to 14,880 till June 2021.
Clare Marchant, UCAS chief executive, says: “There is a clear demand for undergraduate study and apprenticeships, rising significantly during the pandemic. Universities are prepping up to welcome more students onto courses this autumn and have worked hard to be flexible, enabling students to progress to their next level of study.”