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New visa rules: 25% drop in Indian students going to UK

The number of postgraduate students travelling from non-EU countries to study at UK universities has fallen for the first time in 16 years, fuelling fears that the government's immigration crackdown is deterring thousands of the brightest students from continuing their studies in Britain. Faulty policy?

world Updated: Jan 12, 2013 01:26 IST

The number of postgraduate students travelling from non-EU countries to study at UK universities has fallen for the first time in 16 years, fuelling fears that the government's immigration crackdown is deterring thousands of the brightest students from continuing their studies in Britain.

The number of students coming to the UK from China continued to rise, with 11,000 more enrolling in 2011-12 than in the previous year. However, there was a 25% drop in the number from India, and a 13% drop from Pakistan.

"Not only are these countries with large numbers of ambitious students aspiring to study overseas, but they are also countries with which we have historically been actively engaged in the areas of higher education and research," Jo Beall, British Council director of education and society, said.

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Tim Westlake, director for the student experience at Manchester University, said students whose families relied on them working in the UK after their studies to gain experience and repay the fees were starting to look elsewhere. "Since 2004, the university has had significant growth in Indian students, but over the past two years there has been a 32% drop in Indian master's enrolments. Master's applications from India are down again by 33% this year."

Over recent years, the number of non-EU postgraduates has risen annually by an average of more than 10%, but figures released by the Higher Education Statistical Agency (Hesa) show a 1% drop in enrolments in the 2011-12 academic year.

Beall said the fall would be cause alarm among UK vice-chancellors. "The sector was expecting a decline in growth, but the actual reduction in postgraduate numbers is of real concern as international students make up the majority of numbers in many postgraduate courses and research teams in science," he said.