Latest figures show that there has been a further 10% decline in the number of student visas issued to Indians for study in Britain in the year ending September, even as the David Cameron government signalled its commitment to welcome international students.
Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that India was the third largest source country of students after China and the US in the year ending September 2015, but figures reflected continuing decline of Indians opting for Britain to study in recent years.
There has been much hand-wringing in universities and other stake-holders over the consistent drop in the number of Indian students. The drop is mainly attributed to the closure of the post-study work visa in 2012 and the closure of several ‘bogus’ colleges.
The ONS figures came in the backdrop of chancellor George Osborne signalling the government’s commitment to welcome international students. Britain has been facing much competition from the US, Australia and Canada in the global higher education market.
Osborne said in the Spending Review in the House of Commons: “International students are integral to the success of UK universities and the economy. The government is committed to strong growth in students from outside the EU, supporting the £30 billion education exports ambition”.
The number of students from outside the EU is expected to rise by 55,000, worth more than £1 billion, by 2020, he said.
“To ensure universities can continue to compete with the US, Australia and Canada for top international students, dependants of postgraduates on courses lasting more than a year will be welcome to come and work. Current English language requirements will be maintained”, he said.
Allowing dependants to work is already allowed, but sources in the higher education sector said reiterating it in the Spending Review was significant.
Osborne also announced that the government will fund 2,200 scholarships per year to study in the UK. Universities UK, the representative body of universities in Britain, welcomed Osborne’s commitments.
Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said: “It is welcome to hear the government highlighting the importance of international students to the UK. And repeating the projections for growth in the number of students from outside the EU by 2020”.
UK student visa for Indians:
In year ending September 2014: 12,979
In year ending September 2015: 11,652
Percentage change: 10%
(Source: Home Office)