UK opportunities for international students
By Mark Wilson

The latest UCAS data sheds light on the success rates of international students looking to secure their place on an undergraduate course at one of the UK’s world class universities. It’s never been a better time to apply to UK universities.

The enduring global appeal of studying an undergraduate degree in the UK is clear from the growth of international students with a confirmed place this year, both from within and outside of the European Union. The analysis shows that a total of 30,350 students from the EU have been accepted for entry in the 2018/19 academic year, a 2% increase on 2017. This comes alongside a record of 38,330 students accepted from outside of the EU.


The opportunities for international undergraduates

It is a particularly good time to be an international applicant as many UK universities are strengthening their international agendas. An ongoing issue they face is the downward trend in the overall number of 18-year olds in the UK population each year.  In 2018, there was a 2.5% drop on 2017’s population, and this coming year there is a further 1.9% fall.


This means there are now fewer school leavers in the UK to apply for undergraduate courses. Last year, this fall in young people translated into fewer applications being made through UCAS, and latest numbers show a 2% fall in applications for 2018 entry. For international students though, this can mean less competition for places.


Regardless of where you are applying from, if you have a strong set of grades you’ve never been better positioned to receive an offer, and subsequently secure a place on an internationally recognised course.


TEF as a guide

There are also other changes impacting UK universities. One of these has been the introduction of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF). The TEF has been developed by the Government’s Department for Education in England and is intended to provide information about teaching quality and the learning experience to help prospective students choose where to study. Universities and colleges are given either a gold, silver, bronze or provisional rating based on a set of measurements, plus data around student intake and employment outcomes.


UCAS research based on the responses of 85,000 students shows that UK applicants are twice as likely to know what the TEF is (19% of applicants) compared to applicants from the EU and outside of the EU (9% and 10%, respectively). Our analysis also shows that students who know about the TEF are, on average, more likely to apply to a university or college that holds a gold rating. Out of the students who didn’t know about the TEF, 60% said that if they had been aware of it, the ratings would have been an important factor in deciding where to apply. All TEF ratings are easy to find within the course search tool on the UCAS website.


It is important to remember that not all universities and colleges take part in the TEF, and that the TEF award is currently made at the level of a provider, rather than by subject. While ratings can be helpful, our student insight shows there’s no substitute for thorough research into individual courses, and if possible, the experience of attending a university or college open day.


So, what does all of this mean and how will it benefit your students?


Supporting student selection

There are over 35,000 undergraduate courses on offer across the UK, so a huge amount of diversity available, and taking time to research the different course options available shouldn’t be underestimated.


You can encourage your students to be ambitious with their applications. When applying to the UK, you have five initial choices, so maybe think about using at least one of them to be aspirational.

Take this opportunity to renew or forge links with universities’ international and admissions teams to ensure they understand the qualifications that your students will be applying with. They’ll be keener than ever to hear from you.


Make sure your guidance and counselling teams are up-to-date with the changing information about universities, including the TEF and the services that UCAS can offer, to help those progressing to university in the UK.


Mark Wilson is Strategy Manager at UCAS Stay up to date with UCAS on Twitter at @ucas_corporate

©2019 International School Leader