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The number of visas granted to Indians to study in the UK has seen its first year-to-September increase since 2010, according to the latest set of data.
Figures released by the Home Office on 30 November revealed a 27 per cent rise in the number of long-term study visas granted to Indian nationals in the year ended September 2017, to 14,081.
It follows several years of declining numbers of Indians being issued study visas, with the falls being seen as one of the main consequences of the UK government’s clampdown on student migration from outside the European Union.
Data that include the three months to the end of September are significant because the third quarter is normally the busiest for processing visa applications for students seeking to start courses in the autumn.
The figures for India still have a long way to go before they recover to anywhere near the peak number of more than 60,000 Indian students being granted visas in the year to September 2010, when the country was ahead of China as the most important market for overseas students.
China remains by far the most important current origin for overseas students being granted visas to study: the number of longer-term visas granted to students from the country grew by 15 per cent in the year to September, to 88,258, which now represents 39 per cent of all those granted a study visa.
Overall, the number of study-related visas, excluding those given to short-term students, went up by 8 per cent to 224,392 in the year to September. There were also increases in the number granted to students from Pakistan (up 36 per cent to 1,141), the US (up 6 per cent to 15,039) and Hong Kong (up 5 per cent to 9,332).
However, one group campaigning for the UK to boost its numbers of overseas students said that the 8 per cent rise was “disappointing” given what was happening in other nations.
James Pitman, a spokesman for Destination for Education, a group backed by providers of university preparation courses for overseas students, said: “While the UK has only granted 8 per cent more long-term study visas compared with last year, enrolments in Canada have surged by 22 per cent, with a 100 per cent increase in applications from some markets.
“The UK is lagging behind despite the government claiming they have a target to increase education as an export. It is time for the government to work collaboratively with the higher education sector so that we can promote the UK as a prestigious place to study and overcome the barriers that are dissuading prospective international students.”
Meanwhile, the Home Office said that the number of university-sponsored study visa applications rose by 6 per cent to 177,961, the first time the year-to-September total has grown since 2014. Within this figure, there was also a 9 per cent increase for Russell Group universities, to 87,362.
Alongside the figures from the Home Office, the Office for National Statistics released its latest estimates of net migration to the UK in the year to June 2017, including those travelling to the country for study reasons.
Among a 106,000 fall in overall net migration to 230,000, it estimated that long-term immigration to study had fallen by 23,000 to 141,000, although it said that this was not statistically significant. Most were non-EU citizens (95,000, down 18,000).
The ONS estimates for student immigration are based on data from the International Passenger Survey (IPS), which questions a sample of people entering and leaving the UK. Figures from the IPS estimating the number of students leaving the country now carry a health warning after a highly critical report published in June questioned its reliability for assessing student net migration.