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Rising international student applications: the latest from Finland, the Netherlands, and the UK

Three countries in Western and Northern Europe – Finland (FI), the Netherlands (NL), and the United Kingdom (UK) – have recently released enrollment figures, showing an upward trend for study admissions (NL, UK) and applications by international students (FI).

The latest student enrollment data published by Universities of the Netherlands (VSNU) for the 2021/22 academic year shows a 4% increase in the total number of students enrolled at Dutch universities (340 346), compared to the last year. The number of international students grew even more significantly (by 14.2%), reaching ca. 80 000 students enrolled in Bachelor's and Master's programmes. Given the growing student numbers and the declining public funding per capita, Dutch universities advocate for measures to safeguard the quality of the higher education offer (e.g., by introducing caps on the number of non-EEA students per degree programme, or the enrollment quotas for English-language tracks).

According to the UCAS data released for the 2021 cycle, the total number of undergraduate international applicants in the UK (142 925) decreased by 5% compared to 2020, whereas the number of accepted applications (70 005) grew by 1%. Overall, the number of applications from outside the EU increased by 12% (111 255), while the accepted applications only increased by 2% (54 030). The number of applicants using the UCAS admission system was particularly on the rise for China (ca. 29 000) and India (8 660). The most substantial proportional increases come from Nigeria (46.9%) and Canada (17.8%), with both countries having around 2 400 applicants so far this year. The number of EU applicants continued to decline in the UK. For the 2021 cycle, EU applications (31 670) dropped by 40% compared to the preceding year, with 50% fewer EU students accepted to the UK first-cycle higher education (16 025).

The data published by the Finnish National Education Agency (EDUFI) offers a glimpse into the near future. EDUFI reported on a record number of applications (32 700) submitted to English-taught study programmes at Finnish higher education institutions during the spring 2022 joint application process. This number increased by approx. 44% compared to the same period last year. Nearly 75% (ca. 24 400) were submitted by non-Finnish applicants, primarily from outside of the EU/EEA (22 500). International applicants mostly originated from Nigeria, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan. The most popular study fields were business, administration and law, information and communication technologies, and health and welfare. Admission results will be published in spring.