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Minor rise in Indian students choosing UK universities

A major reason for Indian students staying away from UK in recent years is the closure in 2012 of the post-study work visa, which was popular among self-financing students.

world Updated: Jan 11, 2018 23:21 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
International students are increasingly on the Brexit political agenda.
International students are increasingly on the Brexit political agenda.(Representative Photo/Getty Images)

New figures released on Thursday show a minor increase in the number of students coming to the United Kingdom for higher studies, but the overall number remains around 50% less than that in 2010-11.

The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) said the number of Indian students declined 26% between 2012-13 and 2016-17, even though India remains the country with the fourth largest number of students in the UK. The list is topped by China.

New Indian students enrolling on first-year courses rose from 9,095 in 2015-16 to 9,720 in 2016-17. The overall number of Indian students in 2010-2011 was 39,090, but the figure for 2016-17 was 16,550, reflecting the shift in perceptions over the years due to visa curbs.

The figures suggest that the marginal increase in Indian student numbers was at the postgraduate level. The largest drop was for vocational courses, mainly due to the closure of several bogus colleges which were recruiting non-EU students for non-academic purposes.

A major reason for Indian students staying away from UK in recent years was the closure in 2012 of the post-study work visa, which was popular among self-financing students. It is unlikely to be re-introduced anytime soon.

However, there have been some recent relaxations — a visa pilot running at 27 universities allows Indian and other non-EU students more time to find employment after completing their studies, while another relaxation will allow taking up employment after completion of the course, without waiting for the degrees to be awarded.

International students are increasingly on the Brexit political agenda, particularly in the forthcoming legislation to put in place the immigration system after the UK leaves the European Union. There is a growing consensus that they not be counted as immigrants.

Various official reports have belied claims that many non-EU students do not return after completing studies, adding more pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May to remove students from net migration figures, and thus exclude them from steps to curb immigration.

A new report on Thursday by Higher Education Policy Institute and Kaplan International Pathways said Indian and other non-EU students bring a net benefit of £20.3 billion to the UK economy, adding further data to demands to relax visa norms for them.

Responding to the report, Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, the umbrella organization of all UK universities, said: “This report confirms the vital net contribution international students make to the UK.

“This is both in terms of their contribution to the economy, and their positive cultural and academic impact on campuses. It is clear that this positive impact extends to university towns and cities in all corners of the UK.

“Looking ahead, we need to see a new post-Brexit immigration policy that encourages all suitably qualified international students to choose to study in the UK. This includes enhancing the post-study work opportunities for qualified international graduates, as many of our international competitors have been doing to improve their student visa offer.”