The international student population, England and Wales: Census 2021

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The international student population, England and Wales: Census 2021

17 April 2023

Today, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published an article on the international student population in England and Wales: Census 2021. This is the third in a series of detailed articles on the topic of international migration that we are producing using data from Census 2021.

The analysis in this article is based on a specific definition of an international student within the Census 2021 data, which has been designed to identify as closely as possible non-UK nationals who moved to England and Wales for the purpose of full-time study in higher education. It includes information on the country of birth, economic activity and industry, as well as other characteristics of the international student population.

The main findings from the analysis presented in this article include:

  • There were 373,600 non-UK-born, non-UK passport holding international students in England and Wales at the time of Census 2021.
  • India (11.6%), China (11.2%), Romania (9.5%) and Nigeria (5.3%) were the top four individual countries of birth of international students.
  • A third of the international student population was in London (33.9%).
  • One in three international students were in employment; Eastern European countries had the highest proportions in employment alongside studying (Romania, 73.9%; Bulgaria, 62.3%; Poland, 56.7%, and Lithuania, 56.0%).
  • International students’ residence type varied by age, with most students aged 18 to 25 years living in communal establishments (36.4%) or an all-student household (28.7%), while most students aged 26 years and over lived in single or multiple family households (59.0%).
  • Of the international students whose preferred main language was not English (239,000, 64.0%), 59.3% and 35.5% reported being able to speak English very well and well respectively.

Read the article

Jay Lindop

Jay Lindop is head of the Centre for International Migration.You can follow Jay on Twitter for the latest in migration statistics news @JayLindop_ONS.

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