The downward spiral in the number of Indian students coming to the UK after the David Cameron government assumed office in 2010 has continued, with the US for the first time overtaking India as the second-largest source country after China.
The latest figures of the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) reveal that in the list of first year enrolments, the US accounted for more students than India during 2014-15. China continued to send the largest contingent of students to British institutions.
Overall, there is now 50-plus per cent drop of Indian students: from 38,500 in 2009-10 (before the Cameron government came to power), to 18,230 in 2014-15. Compared to 2013-14, there was a drop of 7% in Indian student numbers in 2014-15.
For first year student enrolments, the figures show China accounted for 58,845 students, the US for 10,205 and India for 10,125. Except for institutions in Scotland, the India drop is visible across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Reasons for dwindling Indian student numbers include closure of the post-study work visa, negative perceptions about Britain among Indian students, a growing higher education sector in India and better offers from countries such as the US, Australia and Canada.
The Cameron government has closed hundreds of bogus institutions that were sponsoring Indian and other non-EU students, and refused a strong demand from Scotland to re-introduce the post-study work visa.
Cameron told the House of Commons on Wednesday that Britain continued to have a “world-beating” offer for international students: “The clarity of our offer is world-beating. Frankly, there are lots of people in our country desperate for jobs...We don’t need the brightest and best of students to come here and then do menial jobs. That’s not what our immigration system is for.”
Julia Goodfellow, president of Universities UK and vice-chancellor of the University of Kent, told Hindustan Times, “While overall international student numbers remained solid, the number of new non-EU domicile entrants fell by 3%. Significantly, there were more first year students from the US than from India coming to the UK.”
She added: “In comparison, the number of Indian students enrolling in the US increased by 29% this year, and similar levels of growth are being reported in Australia. We could be doing better than this.”
Goodfellow said it is essential for the British government to present a “welcoming climate for genuine international students and academics” and to ensure that visa and immigration rules are “proportionate and communicated appropriately”.
“We would also like to see enhanced opportunities for qualified international (non-EU) graduates to stay in the UK for a period to gain professional experience and contribute to the economy,” she said.