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Rise in Arab applications to UK universities

After the US, the UK is the next most sought-after destination for students from the Middle East, who make up around 6 percent of all international students in British universities. (Courtesy Ucas Facebook)
LONDON: The number of foreign students applying to British universities has hit an all-time high, with some of the biggest increases coming from the Arab world, according to figures released by Ucas, the body that processes applications to UK universities.
After several years of declining numbers, applications from Saudi Arabia increased this year by 10 percent to 640 applicants.
The number of international students wanting to continue their education in Britain has surpassed 100,000 for the first time in 2018, a rise of more than 8 percent from last year.
Applications from the UAE numbered 430 in 2009, 1,550 in 2017 and 1,800 this year, up 16 percent in a year. The upward trend is repeated in almost every Arab country, from Morocco to the Gulf states.
Applications from Jordan are up 16 percent from 2017, and up 7 percent each from Oman and Kuwait. Applications from Lebanon and Morocco have surged by 25 percent each.
Only Bahrain and Egypt submitted fewer applications in 2018, from 310 to 300 and from 610 to 570, respectively.
After the US, the UK is the next most sought-after destination for students from the Middle East, who make up around 6 percent of all international students in British universities.
The biggest increases in international applications were from India (36 percent), Brazil (35 percent), Turkey (39 percent) and Mexico (52 percent).
And far from being put off by Brexit, more students from EU countries applied to British universities in 2018 than last year.
“The weaker pound makes the UK a cost-effective place to study … and the UK’s universities are highly popular with international students because of the quality of teaching and experience they offer,” said Helen Thorne, director of external relations at Ucas.
But sources say there are other factors at play — notably, a perception that under President Donald Trump the US has become more xenophobic and Islamophobic, evidenced by the travel ban against seven Muslim-majority countries, and his pledge to build a wall to halt immigration from neighboring Mexico and other Latin American countries.
The single biggest increase in the number of foreign students applying to British universities this year is from Mexico.
There are around 33,700 students from the Middle East enrolled in American universities and postgraduate schools, out of more than 690,000 foreign students.

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