Figures released by the Office for National Statistics today show that 190,000 migrants arrived to study in the year to September 2012, a fall of 56,000 on the previous year.
Study remains the most common reason stated for migrating to the UK, according to the ONS.
Overall the data show that there was a net flow of 153,000 migrants to the UK in the year ending September 2012, 10,000 below the previous quarter’s figure of 163,000.
Other figures released alongside the net migration data show there were 9 per cent fewer student visas issued in the three months to March 2013 compared with the year before. This was mainly due to falls for nationals of Pakistan and India, although there was an increase for China.
Meanwhile, student visa applications fell 10 per cent, although there was a 5 per cent increase for the university sector. The fall was caused by drops for the further education sector (-46 per cent), English language schools (-46 per cent) and independent schools (-7 per cent).
The British Council noted “with concern” the figures on sponsored student visa applications.
Jo Beall, British Council director for education and society, said: “Although it is positive to see a 5 per cent rise in applications to the UK’s universities, the huge falls of 46 per cent in applications to further education colleges and English language schools create a worrying picture.
“Many students use these courses as a step towards applying to our universities, so it presents a long-term risk if we diminish what was a big recruitment pool of students who had already chosen to study in the UK.
“A drop in genuine international students can only diminish the quality of the UK’s education sector.
“We believe that genuine international students make a tremendous academic and cultural contribution to our educational institutions and are also an important source of revenue.”
The government has pledged to cut net migration to the “tens of thousands” by 2015, a policy widely blamed for the clampdown on study visas. This has led to repeated calls for students to be excluded from the count.