Pupil numbers rise at British international schools

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The 2021 COBIS Annual Research Survey, conducted in late 2021 in partnership with GL Education, found that 51% of the 115 responding schools reported pupil numbers had risen this year. In the 2020 survey, 22% of respondents had said the same.

A total of 47% of schools also reported an increase on pre-pandemic student numbers at the start of 2019/20.

“The findings in the report show a positive picture about how high-quality COBIS schools are navigating the challenges of the past two years, with increases in student numbers, and more schools fully open at the time of data collection,” CEO of the British international school network, Colin Bell, said.

However, the “impact of Covid-19 continues to be felt”, he continued, particularly in the area of teacher supply for British international schools.


“The findings in the report show a positive picture about how high-quality COBIS schools are navigating the challenges of the past two years”

Ongoing difficulties with visas and pre-employment checks continue to be problematic, the report indicated.

The survey found 42% of schools reported delays or difficulties with visas and pre-employment checks, while 34% relayed delayed start of international staff due to travel restrictions.

It also found that the percentage of leavers going on to HE in the UK has decreased. COBIS said the finding is “in keeping with the anecdotal evidence from our member schools” that students are considering a wider range of higher education destinations.

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Of the 96% of COBIS school leavers from 2020/21 going on to university, 42% went to the UK, slipping from 50% in 2020 and 53% in 2019.

Factors schools said were influencing decisions to opt for other university destinations than the UK included: cost of university in the UK (51%); potential challenges with UK visas (36%); Brexit (30%); and preference for university closer to home/family (30%).

A fifth of responding schools indicated that some 2020/21 leavers were also opting to pursue a UK Higher Education program outside the UK, studying at international campuses or via distance learning.

The organisation warned that if the UK government is to reach its 600,000 international student target by 2030, it will have to “consider what further support and recognition they can offer to high-quality, accredited British schools operating overseas”.

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