However, figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency also show that the number of Chinese students studying in the UK rose by 16.9 per cent in 2011-12.
Overall, the number of non-EU students studying at UK higher education institutions rose by 1.5 per cent in 2011-12, according to Hesa.
But news of the 23.5 per cent fall in Indian students, and the 13.4 per cent fall in students from Pakistan, brought concern about the impact of tighter government policy on student visas. This tightening is a major element of the government’s policy to reduce net migration into the UK to the “tens of thousands” by 2015.
Jo Beall, British Council director of education and society, said the India and Pakistan falls were “very alarming indeed”.
She added: “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.”
Hesa’s figures also look at the number of students starting courses in 2011-12, giving a more up to date indication of trends. For non-EU postgraduates, new enrolments fell 2 per cent.
Across all levels of study, the number of new non-EU students was static - after years of increases.
Dr Beall said: “Although the UK government has made it clear there is no cap on international students, these statistics for the first time provide real evidence that the changes to UK visa regulations may have dissuaded many students from applying to the UK, and in particular postgraduate students who are so important to the UK’s research output.
“The UK enjoys an excellent reputation around the world for the high quality of our education system, so the government needs to ensure that institutions have all the support they need to attract international students who make a tremendous academic, cultural and economic contribution to the UK.”