Blog 🏛️ University 2nd October 2023

5 Essential Data Insights That UK Universities Need to Know When Planning a 2024 Recruitment Strategy

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Zahra Onsori University Content Writer

With the UK meeting its international enrolment targets 10 years early, international student mobility is booming. 

But there’s a story to unpack behind the headline figures. 

Because the quality and diversity of your international undergraduate cohort is not something guaranteed from numbers alone. 

And with a large portion of these figures being made up by postgraduate students, your international undergraduate cohort may not be reaching its full potential.

As it stands, BridgeU undergraduate international school applications are outpacing UCAS. 

And with international schools growing by 60% in the last decade, with predictions of 800 million more K12 students by 2030, it really drives home the importance of universities needing a long term strategy. 

In our latest UK report, we delve deeper into how UK universities can meet their quality and diversity goals for 2024 and beyond. 

But in today’s blog post, we will be sharing a sneak peek into 5 data insights from the report, and how the application and offer rates from our international schools compared with UCAS.

Want to get straight into learning how our data can increase the quality and diversity of your international undergraduate cohort for 2024? 

The UK is a popular destination for BridgeU international students 

The UK still remains a popular destination for BridgeU students, with applications from our schools outpacing applications sent through UCAS by as much as 8%. 

And international student applications to the UK are growing from an array of countries worldwide. 

We noted a faster annual growth rate in North African markets such as Egypt and Morocco, as well as a number of countries across Europe and the Americas, with France, Italy and Canada being some examples. 

Most notably, the growth rate in applications was significantly higher in countries such as China, Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia.

This is good news for UK universities, as it means your diversity goals are more than reachable. But the question now is, in a competitive marketplace, how can you adapt your recruitment strategy to engage these students?

The USA and Canada are the UK’s main competitors 

Whilst the UK is still a popular destination country and growing, in high growth markets like China, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong, the UK is competing fiercely with the US and Canada. 

At a time when overall European student mobility to the UK has decreased post-Brexit, interest in the UK from BridgeU international school students remains high. But UK universities need to be mindful of increased competition from the USA, Canada and the Netherlands. 

It’s also worth noting that there is an increase in competition from more Asia Pacific destination countries, including Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore. 

Our international school network has given us insight into student’s growing concerns about affordability and security when it comes to studying abroad. 

Because of this, students are now opting to look into study destinations that are closer to home, meaning there is an increase in competition from more Asia Pacific countries, such as Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore. 

Note: Think about your current international strategy. How well is your university website signposted for accommodation and visa queries? What are your current channels to answer international student queries about the application system?

Working these student concerns into your strategy is important in order to increase your chances of being shortlisted.

International schools are a growing undergraduate recruitment channel 

Applications from BridgeU international students have risen by a CAGR of 12% in the last five years, compared to UCAS, which grew by 3%.

This growth in BridgeU applications coincides with the growth of the international school market overall. 

According to ISC Research, international schools have grown by 60% in the last decade. They’ve become a popular alternative for both international and national students, and parents are choosing to send their children to these schools due to the global education and career opportunities they present.

As well as growing in number, the international education market is set to continue demonstrating resilience, generating over $53.8 billion USD in annual school fees.

Not only is this sector set to continue growing, but our international schooI students yielded a 92% acceptance rate when applying to UK universities in 2023. 

This highlights the resiliency and academic preparedness of international school students, and how they’d make a great addition when building a more sustainable recruitment strategy.

Read how BridgeU works with universities

Interested in learning about how BridgeU worked with Queen Mary University in London to raise the profile of specific degree programmes and increase international undergraduate conversions?

Applications from our international schools yield higher offer rates

As well as seeing how BridgeU student application and interest has grown internally, we were also interested in comparing how offer rates from BridgeU international students fared with UCAS offer rates over a five year period. 

Whilst UCAS reports offer rates between 55-66% over 5 years (2017-2022), student applications to UK universities partnering with BridgeU reported offer rates of over 80% across the same time span. 

So as it stands, BridgeU students’ offer rates are growing faster than overall UCAS offer rates.

International school students have been more resilient post-Brexit

BridgeU applications from Europe have declined less sharply compared to overall European trends in UCAS. 

And in source markets such as France, Belgium & Portugal, applications to the UK have risen year on year. 

This data highlights that there is still interest in studying in the UK from European countries.

BridgeU’s analysis of international students’ subject preferences suggests that prospective European applicants are more likely to favour subjects such as Economics, Management Studies, Business Studies, Psychology and Law. 

Whilst we wouldn’t recommend solely using this subject segmentation in your strategy, this presents an opportunity for universities to take a localised approach and align recruitment strategies with faculty degree programmes.

So, international applications in the UK are growing. But international school student applications are growing faster in a diverse range of markets. On top of that, this growth coincides with the growth of the international school market. 

And with data highlighting the financial sustainability and growth of the K12 student segment, universities can no longer ignore this recruitment channel.

Get in touch

This data was taken from our latest UK report. Interested in learning how this data will impact your institution’s 2024 goals? 

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