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UK universities face possible £463m loss in East Asia student recruitment

UK universities can expect to admit around 14,000 fewer students from East Asia countries this Autumn, representing a £463 million drop in income from tuition and living expenses, according to a survey conducted by the British Council.

The poll of 15,536 students with outbound study plans across eight East Asia markets including China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam, found that approaching a third (29 per cent) are likely to delay or cancel their overseas study plans this year, while a further 35 per cent are undecided.

Prospective postgraduate students overwhelmingly favoured a face-to-face start in January (63 per cent) over an autumn start online (15 per cent), while 37 per cent of prospective undergraduates prefer the online start in autumn, compared to 46 per cent preferring a delayed January start.

The findings show that students from Indonesia and Taiwan were most likely to delay or cancel their overseas study plans, with nearly half of prospective postgraduate students saying they are at least ‘somewhat likely’ to delay or cancel their overseas study plans.

Hong Kong stood out as the market with the most positive sentiments – 57 per cent said that they are at least ‘somewhat likely’ to keep their plans to study abroad.

Commenting on the findings of the survey, which was conducted between 24 April to 15 May 2020, Matt Durnin, the British Council's global head of insights and consultancy, said:

"Prospective international students are facing a lot of uncertainty, but many are clearly trying to find a way to keep their overseas study plans. There is a window of opportunity over the next two months to create a greater sense of certainty about the upcoming academic year. If responses are clear and quickly communicated to prospective students, UK higher education will face a much more manageable scenario."