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Universities: Admissions

Question for Department for Education

UIN HL5456, tabled on 9 June 2020

To ask Her Majesty's Government what estimate they have made of a possible reduction in the number of international students attending universities in England in the next academic year; and what plans they have to encourage more home students into universities in England in the light of any such reduction.

Answered on

23 June 2020

We have been working closely with the Higher Education (HE) sector to monitor the likely impacts of COVID-19 on international student numbers. We understand that the COVID-19 outbreak and a possible reduction in the number of international students poses significant challenges.

On Monday 4 May my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, announced a package of measures to stabilise university admissions this autumn and ensure sustainability in HE at a time of unprecedented uncertainty.

We have introduced temporary student number controls for domestic and EU students for the academic year 2020/21 to ensure a fair, structured distribution of students across providers. These measures mean that providers will be able to recruit students up to a temporary set level, based on provider forecasts, which allows additional growth of up to 5% in the next academic year. The Secretary of State for Education, will also have the discretion to allocate an additional 10,000 places, of which 5,000 will be allocated to students studying nursing or allied health courses, to ensure growing numbers that will support our vital public services. This measure will only apply to full-time undergraduate UK/EU domiciled students, with certain specified exemptions. These controls will not apply to international (non-EU) students.

The government has been clear that the UK HE sector is ‘open for business’, remains world class and is looking forward to welcoming both domestic and international students in the future. To support international student recruitment, we are taking steps to further promote the new Graduate route (due to be launched in Summer 2021) which will provide an opportunity for international students who have been awarded their degree to stay and work in the UK at any skill level for 2 years. This represents a significant improvement in our offer to international students and will help ensure our HE sector remains competitive internationally.

The government has been in close communication with partners in the HE sector, who are considering educational provision for the academic year 2020/2021 and how to best reopen campuses. HE providers are autonomous institutions and will make their own judgements based on the latest public health guidance, taking account of the need to minimise risk to staff and students.

To help providers make informed decisions about their provision, the government has issued guidance, which is complemented by the Universities UK’s principles for reopening of campuses to students and staff. We anticipate HE providers will be open for the autumn term with a blend of online teaching and in-person tuition that they consider appropriate and which minimises risk. HE providers will be flexible in accommodating applicants’ circumstances where possible, including if they are unable to travel to the UK in time for the start of the academic year.