Universities Face Financial Risks Due to Declining International Enrolments

Saturday, January 20, 2024

In a recent report by PwC, a concerning trend has been highlighted regarding the financial stability of UK universities. This analysis, commissioned by Universities UK, reveals a heavy reliance on international student enrolments, a factor that is increasingly becoming a risk due to declining demand.

Key Findings:

  • Many UK universities have been depending on the rising trend of international student enrolments to bolster their financial positions. However, this strategy is now under threat due to decreasing student interest in UK higher education.
  • PwC's modelling predicts a grim future for UK universities. It suggests that between 51% and 80% of universities in the UK could face deficits if international enrolments start to decline from the 2024/25 academic year onwards.
  • Current enrolment data from January 2024 already shows a downturn in student numbers from key markets such as India and Nigeria. This is particularly alarming as these countries have been significant contributors to the international student population in the UK.

The PwC's UK Higher Education Financial Sustainability Report, based on the 2022/23 regulatory forecasts, examined the financial returns from 70 institutions across England and Northern Ireland. The data, collected between July and September 2023, presents a base case scenario for these forecasts.

Adding to the concern, recent data from the Enroly platform, a popular channel for international students coming to the UK, indicates a substantial drop in student acceptances and deposits. The platform has experienced a decline of over a third compared to the previous year, a significant figure considering that approximately one in three international students in the UK use Enroly.

This report serves as a wake-up call for UK universities, underscoring the need for a more sustainable financial model that does not overly rely on international student fees. As the global higher education landscape continues to evolve, UK universities may need to diversify their revenue streams and adapt their strategies to remain financially viable in the face of changing international student dynamics.