UK universities have been told to expect a sharp fall in the number of new international students coming next year, including a loss of up to $460m in income from students from east Asia.
A new survey of international students by the British Council has found that nearly 14,000 fewer students from eight countries – including China, Singapore and Malaysia – are likely to come to the UK in 2020/21 in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The decline of 20 percent in students from east Asia would amount to a 12 percent fall in overall international student numbers, causing the huge loss of income from tuition and living expenses such as accommodation.
While the fall in student numbers appears smaller than some institutions are anticipating, one worrying sign from the survey is that nearly 40 percent of those coming from China – the UK’s biggest source of overseas students – have yet to decide.
“Prospective international students are facing a lot of uncertainty, but many are clearly trying to find a way to keep their overseas study plans,” said Matt Durnin, the author of a report for the British Council.
The survey of prospective students found that 29 percent said they were likely to delay or cancel their plans to study. Many prefer face-to-face tuition rather than online lessons. Most postgraduate applicants said they would rather postpone the start of their studies until January 2021 than begin with online teaching in autumn, while 46 percent of undergraduate applicants agreed.
The British Council said its findings suggested the sector may take three or four years to recover from the shock of COVID-19. Some British universities are forecasting falls in international students of 50 percent compared with last year.