Do universities take foreign students ahead of British - A look at some facts

If true, this would indeed be a scandal worthy of front-page headlines. However, the truth for the nation’s sixth-formers awaiting their A-level results is somewhat different.

Focus on admissions

The Sunday Times did not publish the data on which the article is based, but from the few statistics they do quote, it would appear that they have not focused on admissions to universities. Instead, they have counted all students attending university including those in their second and subsequent years of study. Furthermore, they have not distinguished between full-time and part-time, young and old, those aiming for a degree, and those who are studying on short courses.

These distinctions are important because the significant changes over the period in question have had an impact on these different populations in different ways and for different reasons. In particular, there has been a significant decline in low-intensity part-time study – much made up of continuing development courses for older students, and much leading to study credits rather than full degrees. (See more on our website and in this blog post.)

What actually matters to sixth form students, whether British or foreign, is whether they are offered and accepted onto a degree course of their choice at their preferred university. This information is freely available for anyone to download from the UCAS website, and they tell a very different story to the Sunday Times.

What does UCAS data show?

If we look at end-of-cycle UCAS-accepted applicants for the top 50 universities as ranked by the Sunday Times, we find that between 2006 and 2016, 46 universities grew acceptances of UK-domiciled applicants amounting to an total increase of 40,450, while just 4 universities reduced UK domiciled acceptances, by a total of -690.

Whereas, for EU and overseas domiciled students the increase was roughly half as great: 44 universities saw an increase of 21,155 in accepted applicants, while 6 universities actually reduced acceptances of these students by a total of -545.

UCAS undergraduate accepted applicants at Sunday Times Top 50 Universities

Source: UCAS

2006 2016
Provider Name Other EU and overseas domicile UK domicile Total Other EU and overseas domicile UK domicile Total
The University of Aberdeen 470 2,095 2,565 1,185 2,200 3,385
Aston University, Birmingham 400 1,840 2,240 270 3,065 3,335
University of Bath 710 2,040 2,750 970 2,740 3,710
The University of Birmingham 640 4,625 5,265 945 5,455 6,400
University of Bristol 460 3,200 3,660 1,070 4,465 5,535
The University of Buckingham 20 20 40 50 115 165
University of Cambridge 520 2,810 3,330 825 2,610 3,435
Cardiff University 550 4,430 4,980 1,060 5,715 6,775
City, University of London 685 1,570 2,255 965 2,585 3,550
Coventry University 780 3,115 3,895 1,435 6,695 8,130
University of Dundee 195 1,850 2,045 275 2,685 2,960
Durham University 395 3,135 3,530 960 3,510 4,470
University of East Anglia (UEA) 355 2,340 2,695 780 3,610 4,390
The University of Edinburgh 720 3,445 4,165 1,820 4,435 6,255
The University of Essex 495 1,510 2,005 1,235 3,010 4,245
University of Exeter 290 2,985 3,275 1,330 4,630 5,960
University of Glasgow 485 3,750 4,235 1,420 4,185 5,605
Harper Adams University 25 400 425 20 690 710
Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh 600 1,265 1,865 285 1,780 2,065
Imperial College London 915 1,355 2,270 1,305 1,235 2,540
Keele University 140 1,645 1,785 225 2,515 2,740
The University of Kent 800 3,270 4,070 1,080 4,235 5,315
King’s College London 645 2,600 3,245 2,180 3,830 6,010
Lancaster University 410 2,350 2,760 740 2,490 3,230
University of Leeds 560 6,185 6,745 1,060 6,330 7,390
University of Leicester 435 2,040 2,475 640 3,540 4,180
The University of Liverpool 450 3,760 4,210 585 5,370 5,955
Liverpool Hope University 80 1,700 1,780 35 1,450 1,485
London School of Economics 695 610 1,305 880 745 1,625
Loughborough University 425 3,025 3,450 530 3,415 3,945
The University of Manchester 1,365 5,845 7,210 2,635 6,070 8,705
Newcastle University 475 3,985 4,460 865 5,305 6,170
The University of Nottingham 1,105 4,810 5,915 1,085 6,455 7,540
Oxford University 480 2,770 3,250 645 2,650 3,295
Queen Mary University of London 480 2,865 3,345 1,210 3,755 4,965
Queen’s University Belfast 135 3,435 3,570 325 4,110 4,435
University of Reading 355 2,950 3,305 690 3,360 4,050
Royal Holloway, University of London 610 1,540 2,150 710 2,170 2,880
SOAS, University of London 250 560 810 365 810 1,175
The University of Sheffield 570 4,020 4,590 1,035 4,955 5,990
University of Southampton 555 3,760 4,315 925 4,435 5,360
University of St Andrews 445 1,035 1,480 500 1,200 1,700
The University of Stirling 175 1,425 1,600 200 1,635 1,835
The University of Strathclyde 285 3,345 3,630 255 3,935 4,190
University of Surrey 555 1,595 2,150 1,080 2,970 4,050
University of Sussex 290 2,180 2,470 1,345 3,305 4,650
Swansea University 225 2,910 3,135 470 4,275 4,745
UCL (University College London) 1,035 2,270 3,305 2,745 2,845 5,590
The University of Warwick 820 2,595 3,415 1,725 3,345 5,070
University of York 380 2,250 2,630 580 3,950 4,530
Total 24,940 131,110 156,050 45,550 170,870 216,420