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Overseas student demand strengthening despite Brexit uncertainty

Student demand for places across the UK – and therefore for accommodation – is holding up well despite Brexit uncertainty, according to Knight Frank.

Citing applications data from UCAS, the agency says more than 560,000 students applied to start a full-time undergraduate course at UK universities for the 2019/20 academic year. This is nearly 2,500 more applications than at the same point last year and the first year-on-year increase in applications in three years.

The agency says the rise in applications for the 2019/20 academic year was driven by a record number of applicants from outside of the UK, which climbed 5.7 per cent on 2018 levels.

International student numbers increased in spite of the heightened level of political uncertainty surrounding Brexit, highlighting – in Knight Frank’s words – “the ongoing global appeal of UK higher education.”

Overall, nearly a fifth of all applicants are from outside the UK.

The agency says that of particular note is a 33.3 per cent year-on-year rise in prospective Chinese students – from 11,915 to 15,880.

This follows an increase of 20.6 per cent last year, and brings Chinese applicant numbers to nearly the same level as those from Wales and Northern Ireland (18,855 and 17,910 respectively).

James Pullan, global head of student property at Knight Frank, says: “The Augar Review [of post-18 education] has the potential to throw-up new challenges for some universities and, while the latest figures suggest that ‘Brexit’ has not deterred overseas applicants, future demand is contingent on decisions surrounding the UK’s relationship with the EU. The medium and long-term picture however, remains bright, underpinned by positive demographics and the recently announced International Education Strategy.”

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