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UK Study Visa Applications Hit Record Lows Since The Pandemic

The number of international students applying for postgraduate degrees has fallen by more than a quarter since new visa regulations were implemented earlier this year, new data shows

Fri May 3 2024

International student applications to study at higher education institutions in the UK plummeted by 27% during the first three months of 2024. 

This marked the steepest decline in applications since the pandemic, with only 34,000 applications received compared to 46,900 during the same period in 2022.

Why is the UK becoming a less popular study destination for international students?

The significant decline in international student enrolments has affected many UK higher education institutions, including business schools. It coincides with the implementation of new visa regulations earlier this year.

As of January 2024, international students on taught master’s programs can no longer bring family members as dependents to the UK.

Despite being introduced as a temporary solution, a recent survey by the Charted Association of Business School found that 78% of business schools were below target in terms of non-EU postgraduate applicants.

Other factors contributing to the drop in applicants this year include rising costs of visa issuance and health surcharges, as well as the pending graduate visa review in May.

The Home Office expects the full impact of the visa changes to be revealed during the peak application period in August and September of 2024.

Where are international students applying instead?

The UK’s fall in popularity as a study destination is prompting a shift in student preferences.

Decreasing application rates to the UK from India and Nigeria coincide with an uptick in applications to the US, according to surveys by Oxford International Education Services and OpenDoors.

“Unfortunately, we don’t know how many of the ‘brightest and best’ have been deterred from applying to the UK as a result, but it is now clear that the US has overtaken us as the top preferred study destination,” said Diana Beech, CEO of London Higher, in a recent interview with international education platform, The PIE News.

This trend continues beyond the US, with another recent survey by educational consultancy, AECC, finding a rise in applications to Germany and New Zealand as well.