The UK is well known for its world-class universities, respected throughout the world and for their high level of education and research, and multicultural society with nearly all religions and faiths represented. So there’s no surprise that it is one of the world’s most popular destinations for higher education.
As part its International Education Strategy, the UK government set out to increase the numbers of international higher education students in the UK to 600,000 per year by 2030. According to 2020/2021 statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, there are currently over 605,000 international students in the UK, beating that ambition by nearly ten years. 152,905 of these were from the EU and 452,225 were non-EU. According to UCAS and College Board’s report ‘Where Next – What influences the choices international students make’, In 2021, more than half of international students accepted through UCAS to study in the UK came from seven countries, with two in every nine coming from China. There has also been significant growth in interest from countries such as Nigeria (over 21,000 students) and Pakistan (almost 13,000).
UCAS has forecast that the volume of international undergraduate applicants will increase 46% to 208,500 by 2026.
The top universities of choice (by number of students from outside the UK) are:
University College London
UCL is the largest university in the UK by total enrolment (not including the Open University), organised into 11 academic faculties within which there are over 100 departments, institutes and research centres. A third of all students are from outside the UK.
It was the first university in England to welcome women to university education and the first to welcome students of any religion or social background. Nobel Prizes have been awarded to 29 current or former students or academics at UCL.
The University of Manchester
The University of Manchester is a public research university with its main campus to the south of Manchester City Centre – the largest single-campus University in the United Kingdom. It has the UKs second largest student population. There are whole areas dominated by students including Oxford Road, which hosts three different universities, and Fallowfield, the student hub.
Manchester is famous for its music scene, street markets, diverse culture and friendly people. Notable alumni include Professor Brian Cox and actor Benedict Cumberbatch. The University attracts world-renowned researchers and teachers and has 25 Nobel Prize winners amongst its current and former staff and students.
The University of Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh, opened in 1583 is sixth-oldest university in continuous operation in the English-speaking world. Among it’s more famous alumni are J.K. Rowling and Charles Darwin. There are approximately 45,000 students spread across five campuses around the city. The University’s three Colleges host 21 Schools and is one of the world’s top research-intensive universities.
It has the oldest purpose-built student union in the world. The city is full of historic architecture including Edinburgh Castle and Dean Village, and is surrounded by scenic countryside like Arthur’s Seat and Hollyrood park. Every summer the Edinburgh Fringe Festival takes over, with comedians and performers descending on the town to perform in venues across the city.