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China passes Northern Ireland in numbers of British university applications

By Alexander Britton, PA

The number of Chinese students applying for places at British universities has increased 30% since last year with figures surpassing those from Northern Ireland, figures show.

Nearly 20,000 people from China have sent an application through UCAS to start further education next year and are among the 638,030 people who are looking for a university place.

Last year, the number of Chinese applicants stood at 15,420 but has since increased to 19,760. In the same period, the number of applicants from Northern Ireland fell from 19,310 to 18,520 (4%).

Meanwhile, the number of applications to nursing courses has increased for the first time in three years - following a steep decline which coincided with the removal of bursaries for students.

Clare Marchant, chief executive of UCAS, said: "The global appeal of UK higher education has never been clearer, with record, demographic beating application rates in England and Wales, and the steep rise in international applications, especially from China."

Nearly four in 10 (39.5%) of 18-year-olds in England submitted applications through UCAS ahead of the June 30 deadline - a record high.

This figure represents 275,520 people, up from 272,920 last year. Similar figures show 46.9% of 18-year-olds in Northern Ireland have sent applications (down 0.7%), with Scotland down 0.1% at 32.7% and Wales up 0.2% to 32.9%.

The number of students from England applying for nursing courses was 36,810, up from 35,260 last year.

Bursaries for student nurses and midwives in England were axed in 2016 and replaced with loans from August 2017.

The country's number of applicants has declined from a high of 51,840 in 2016 to 40,060 a year later and 35,260 in 2017.