The higher education sector of UK experienced a decline in enrollments from India and Nigeria in their September 2023 intakes, according to a recent report.
The decline has triggered internal reviews among UK universities. It remains to be seen whether this change signifies a long-term trend or a temporary deviation in institutional recruitment strategies. Notably, there has been substantial growth of enrollments from Nigeria in recent years, with study visas issued by the Home Office rising from 6,798 in 2017 to 59,053 in 2022.
Analyzing data from a sample of over 16,000 offer holders from QS partner institutions for the January 2024 intake, along with web traffic data from topuniversities.com, provided a nuanced perspective for the upcoming year.
The dataset reveals a significant decline in the number of Nigerian offer-holders, experiencing a drop of 40.5 percent from January 2023 to January 2024 (falling from 4,405 to 2,619), a trend that suggests ongoing volatility in the Nigerian market.
Several factors contribute to these changes, including the UK’s cap on dependent family member visas, currency fluctuations in Nigeria, and increased competition in the recruitment landscape. The Open Doors data indicates a 12 percent increase in Nigerian students choosing the US for study in 2022, adding to the challenges for UK universities and their recruitment strategies.
In contrast, the Indian market presents a more positive trend, with a 46 percent increase in the number of offer-holders, rising from 2,523 in January 2023 to 3,688 in January 2024. The figures suggest a rebound for the Indian market, following stabilization in September. It aligns with the trend seen in web traffic data on topuniversities.com, where Indian visitors interested in the UK have more than quadrupled between 2013 and 2022.
Acceptance rate for Indian candidates
The offer acceptance rate for Indian candidates has declined to 30 percent from 50 percent, although this data may be influenced by the timing of data uploads from partner institutions. It is crucial to approach future intakes with caution when considering the implications for institutional recruitment strategies.
The shifts in enrollment figures emphasize that universities have responded proactively to the situation in Nigeria by increasing overall offer volumes and redirecting offers from Nigeria to India and other growing markets
If this trend holds, it indicates that future recruitment in India is likely to become more challenging, intensifying the competitive landscape. As more Indian students choose North America and Australia, the competition for attention will become increasingly strained.
Maintaining recruitment from India
Data from HEPI’s International Student Survey indicates that prospective students considering studying in the UK are likely to explore at least three country destinations for their studies. This trend is expected to result in more offers being issued and lower conversion metrics for all institutions involved. To maintain recruitment from India, universities will need to create a compelling and distinctive value proposition.
Despite the significance of India to the education sector, it is evident that further diversification is crucial to counterbalance the decrease in Nigerian volumes for the future.
Few markets can maintain the pipeline volumes seen in China and India, necessitating universities to be adaptable and agile in their planning. What may be fertile ground for recruitment one year may not yield the same results for subsequent intakes.
Overseas campuses in India
To facilitate the establishment of overseas university campuses in India, the University of Oxford and other prominent foreign universities have suggested to the University Grants Commission to allow foreign university clusters to set up shop, spell out faculty eligibility criteria, and provide details on the required duration of stay for foreign faculty.
UGC chairman M. Jagadesh Kumar said that the commission is considering various suggestions for its draft guidelines on foreign universities coming to India, which aim to provide more clarity on such matters.
The UGC chairman said over 200 Indian and international stakeholders, including those from the UK, the US, Canada, Italy, France, Russia, and Australia, had offered suggestions — ranging from the University of Melbourne to Northeastern University and Oxford University. The list also includes Texas University, University of Queensland, Istituto Marangoni, and St. Petersburg University.
One million higher education applicants
The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) has forecasted about a million higher education applicants in universities in the United Kingdom by the end of 2030.
The 18-year student population and mobile students growth will lead to a 30 percent increase in applicants by the end of the decade, according to new figures released by UCAS. This is an increase from more than three-quarters of a million in 2022.