UK Meets Target of 600,000 International Students Ten Years Earlier Than Planned

United Kingdom – Big Ben

The United Kingdom has managed to meet its 600,000 international student target ten years earlier than planned, the latest statistics by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) have revealed.

Data have shown that there were 605,130 international students in total studying at UK universities and colleges during the 2020/21 academic year. In other words, the number of international students in the UK has increased by 8.7 percent compared to a year earlier when the country hosted 556,625 students, according to

Out of the total number of international students in the UK during 2020/21, 452,225 came from non-EU countries, and 152,905 from within the European Union. In general, the total number of all higher education students in the UK was 2,751,865 in 2020/21, reports.

Within the European Union, Italy has sent most students to the UK last academic year, reaching 14,605 students in total, followed by France with 14,090 students and Romania with 12,860 students.

According to HESA, Scottish universities welcomed more students from Ireland than any other EU country, while for universities in England, Romania has replaced France for the second position in the number of students from the EU.

Meanwhile, outside the European Union, China was the main source of students in the UK, with 32 percent of all non-EU students or 143,820 coming from China. According to data, the number of Chinese students in the UK has increased for 48,225 or by 50 percent between academic years 2016/17 and 2020/21.

On the other hand, students from India represented 19 percent of all non-EU enrollments in 2020/21. India ranked second from non EU-countries with 84,555 students in the UK in 2020/21, followed by Nigeria with 21,305 students, while students from Malaysia decreased by 30 percent in five academic years, from 16,485 in 2016/17 to 11,510 in 2020/21.

“While the numbers of student enrolments from India are not as high as from China, there has been a notable increase of 67,660 over the five-year period. Large increases were observed in 2019/20 and 2020/21,” HESA notes.

Higher education institutions that have hosted the most international students at all study levels were:

  • University College London – hosted 23,360 international students
  • The University of Manchester – hosted 17,625 students
  • The University of Edinburgh – hosted 15,590 students
  • King’s College London – hosted 15,550 students
  • Coventry University – hosted 13,760 students

The UK government had set a target of attracting more than 600,000 international students by 2030 despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

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