Britain should welcome international students who want to take undergraduate degrees in the UK, the head of the higher education admissions service has said.

Clare Marchant, chief executive of Ucas, said around 13% of placed applicants are overseas students and she does not expect that percentage “to change hugely” on A-level results day on Thursday.

Her comments come amid warnings that British students could lose out to international applicants in the competition for places at top universities this summer.

During a webinar hosted by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) think tank, Ms Marchant said: “We need to be welcoming to those undergraduate international students who want to come and study here.”


She added: “You’re competing in a global market so actually just keeping an eye on market share versus Australia, Canada and the US.”

In England, university tuition fees for undergraduate students from the UK are capped at £9,250 a year.

But universities can charge overseas students significantly higher tuition fees.

Last year, the overall entry rate for UK 18-year-olds was 37.5%.

She added: “Certainly we see around 13% of placed students are international students. We know it is absolutely pivotal to diversity at institutions and on courses. And broadly that percentage we don’t expect to change hugely come Thursday or the end of the cycle in October either.”

When asked whether more universities are only opening courses in clearing to international students this year rather than domestic students, Ms Marchant said: “It is broadly consistent with previous years.”

She added: “I think that the proof in the pudding in terms of competition probably will come on Thursday afternoon as some of those courses are taken out of clearing as they get filled up.”


In a statement issued after the webinar, Ms Marchant said: “We’re aware that we are competing in a global market where students are also attracted by study in countries such as Australia, Canada and the US.”

The cohort of students who are currently awaiting their A-level results did not take GCSE exams and were awarded results determined by their teachers in 2021 – which was a record year for top grades.

In England, Ofqual has said this year’s national A-level results will be lower than last year but they are expected to be similar to those before the pandemic.

Speaking during the webinar on Monday, Ms Marchant said she had “sympathy” for this year’s cohort.

She said: “These are individuals who haven’t gone through an external exam before so of course there is going to be a level of anxiety when it comes to Thursday.”

In the week that students across England, Northern Ireland and Wales find out their results, the Ucas chief said it is “very easy” to over-predict grades.

Ms Marchant said: “We’re looking into how we can help schools and colleges just in terms of understanding how accurate they are with predicted grades.

“Because just looking at those year on year and how accurate they can be is something that I think we at Ucas, but the sector at large, need to keep an eye on.

“It’s very easy, I think, to over-predict but we need to be giving data to schools and colleges to get as accurate as possible around that.”