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Higher Education Student Statistics: UK, 2021/22 - Where students come from and go to study

Statistical Bulletin SB265

At the time of publishing, the csv downloads to figures 8 and 9 of this statistical bulletin were showing incorrect data for 2021/22. Corrected csv files were processed as soon as this came to our attention and were published in replacement of these on 1st February 2023. The interactive tables were unaffected by this issue.

Where are students in HE studying?

In 2021/22, 285 HE providers reported student data to HESA. More information on what this means in terms of coverage of the higher education sector is given in the about this release section. Figure 7 shows the number of students studying at each HE provider in the UK in 2021/22 with a breakdown by the geographic location of students' permanent home address prior to study (known as domicile).

In 2021/22, the five providers with the highest proportion of student enrolments were: The Open University, University College London, University of Manchester, The University of Glasgow and King's College London. The Open University remained the provider with the most student enrolments in 2021/22. See the 2020/21 open data by provider for further details.

Figure 7 - HE student enrolments by HE provider and domicile

Academic years 2021/22


HESA does not collect information on UK students who go abroad to study, but more information on these students can be found through United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Where do HE students come from?

  • Proportions of students from outside the UK varied by level and mode of study. Part-time undergraduate students had the lowest percentage from non-European Union countries, while full-time postgraduate students had the highest percentage. 
  • In 2021/22, the proportion of full-time postgraduate students from non-EU countries was 59%, an increase of 10% relative to 2020/21 (see Figure 8).
  • Around one in five students were non-EU domiciled in 2021/22.

Figure 8 - HE student enrolments by level of study, mode of study and domicile

Academic years 2021/22

  • Students domiciled in the UK made up the largest proportion of enrolments in 2021/22.
  • First year EU domiciled enrolments dropped by 53% from 2020/21 to 2021/22. This decrease aligns with the UK’s exit from the EU and a change in international fee policy from 1 August 2021. For further information on the changes, refer to the UK Department for Education's webpage (PDF).
  • While EU enrolment numbers saw a decrease in 2021/22, non-EU first year enrolments rose by 32%. This increase was driven by a large increase in the number of first year students from non-EU countries enrolling onto postgraduate taught courses. The increase could be attributed to the introduction of a post-study work visa, known as the Graduate Immigration Route (PDF) which launched for the 2020/21 intake of students. This allows graduates to stay in the UK for a period of up to two years post-study to find employment, or three years for doctoral students.
  • UK domiciled first year student enrolments decreased by 2% compared to 2020/21, the first decrease since 2011/12. Whereas, first year enrolments for masters taught non-EU domiciled students increased from 159,365 to 232,550 (see Figure 3).
What is ‘First year marker’?

This option restricts the table to only show students who were on the first year of their course. This is useful for restricting data to the newest cohort of entrants. See the year of study definitions for more detail.

Figure 9 - HE student enrolments by domicile

Academic years 2017/18 to 2021/22


The cross-border flows of first year students from the UK shows that the majority of students stay in their home country, although those from Wales and Northern Ireland were more likely to cross borders than those from England and Scotland. The proportion of movements remains roughly the same year-on-year however, the proportion of students from Wales enrolling at Welsh providers decreased by 2 percentage points from 71% in 2020/21 to 69% in 2021/22.

Figure 10 - UK domiciled first year HE student enrolments by domicile and country of HE provider

Academic years 2017/18 to 2021/22

Domicile Country of HE provider


Figure 11 shows the top 10 European Union and non-European Union countries of domicile (excluding the UK) for HE student enrolments in 2021/22 and the change since 2017/18. Data between 2017/18 and 2021/22 is available in the CSV download. Due to overlapping data points on these charts, zoom functionality has been inbuilt.

Within the European Union:

  • More students from France enrolled at UK providers in 2021/22 than any other EU country.
  • Between 2017/18 and 2021/22, there has been a noticeable decline in first year enrolments within the top ten EU countries, except Ireland, who replaced France for highest first year enrolments for EU domiciled students in 2021/22. 
  • The significant decrease shown in EU first year student enrolments can be attributed to changes in fees eligibility as described in the EU Exit Student Finance Policy (PDF) published by the Department for Education in December 2022.

Outside the European Union:

  • China sent more students to the UK than any other overseas country. In 2021/22, 27% of all non-EU students were from China. The number of students from China has increased by 44,475 or 41% over the five-year period 2017/18 to 2021/22.
  • While the numbers of student enrolments from India are not as high as from China, there has been a notable increase of 106,200 over the five-year period, with large increases observed in 2019/20 and 2021/22. Students from India represent 23% of all non-EU enrolments in 2021/22.
  • Student numbers from Malaysia saw a decline of 21% over the five years, dropping below enrolments from Nigeria, USA, Honk Kong and Pakistan.
  • United Arab Emirates and Bangladesh were included in the top ten non-EU countries of domicile for HE student enrolments in 2021/22. These providers were not included in the top ten non-EU countries of domicile in 2020/21. 


Click and drag to highlight an area on the chart below to zoom in. Right-click to reset the view.

Figure 11 - Top ten EU and non-EU countries of domicile (excluding the UK) in 2021/22 for HE student enrolments

Academic years 2017/18 and 2021/22


What students are registered at UK HE providers, but studying overseas?

Figure 12 shows information from the HESA Aggregate offshore record, capturing students studying wholly outside the UK who are either registered with a UK HE provider or who are studying for an award of a UK HE provider. Notable changes to the record in 2019/20 mean this data should be interpreted with caution. Further information on coverage is given in the notes section of this release.

  • Oxford Brookes changed their reporting practices for the 2019/20 academic year around which students they include in their Aggregate Offshore return. This led to a drop of 256,450 students between 2018/19 and 2019/20 for this provider, resulting in a significant drop to the overall number of student enrolments based wholly overseas.
  • Student enrolments increased by 44,365 between 2020/21 and 2021/22. Within this increase, Liverpool John Moores University and The University of East London saw growth in numbers of 7,305 and 4,855 respectively. Both providers have expanded their partnership provision and as a result, almost doubled their student numbers from 2020/21.
  • In 2021/22 overseas partner organisation was the most popular type of provision for those studying in the EU. Whereas for those studying outside the EU, other arrangement including collaborative provision saw the highest number of enrolments.
  • Over the five-year time series, postgraduate study in EU countries has increased year-on-year. Enrolments for postgraduate study outside the EU has increased since 2018/19.
  • English providers accounted for 85% of total enrolments of students based overseas.
  • In 2021/22, 66% of students based overseas were enrolled in undergraduate programmes.

Figure 12 - HE student enrolments based wholly overseas by location and type of provision

Academic years 2017/18 to 2021/22


National Statistic

Release date

19 January 2023, 9:30



Release frequency

Annual - view all releases (1998/99 onwards)


Children, education and skills

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HESA, 95 Promenade, Cheltenham, GL50 1HZ

Press enquiries

+44 (0) 1242 388 513 (option 6), [email protected]

Public enquiries

+44 (0) 1242 388 513 (option 2), [email protected]


Rebecca Mantle

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