Nigerian and Indian first-years in UK outnumber those from EU

Ireland was only EU nation to see a rise in the number of students in the UK

January 31, 2023
Source: iStock

There are more first-year students in the UK from Nigeria and India than from across the whole of the European Union, according to the latest data.

Ireland was the only country in the bloc not to see a fall in the number of students enrolled at UK institutions.

The latest figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) show that there were 32,945 first-year students from Nigeria in UK higher education in 2021-22 – more than double the 14,270 the year before, and more than four times as many as in 2019-20.

There were also 87,045 first-years from India last year – up from 53,015 in 2020-21.

By contrast, the number of first-year students from across the EU’s 27 member states more than halved from 66,680 in 2020-21 to just 31,400 last year.

Hesa said the decrease “aligns with the UK’s exit from the EU and a change in international fee policy from 1 August 2021”.

It marks the first time that Nigeria or India has outnumbered the EU in this measure, and the 10th successive year that China has.

The number of Chinese first-year students in the country rose slightly to 99,965.

In total, there were 44,195 students from Nigeria across all levels of study in 2021-22 – a 107 per cent increase on the previous year.

This was the third sharpest rise of all countries over this period, behind only Nepal (136 per cent) and Sri Lanka (128 per cent) – although both those two have significantly smaller totals.

Meanwhile, the total number of EU students fell to 120,140 year-on-year – a 21 per cent drop.

The largest declines were registered by Lithuania (34 per cent), Romania (31 per cent) and Bulgaria (31 per cent).

Ireland saw a small uptick in the number of students enrolled in the UK – the only EU nation to do so.

Recent signals from the UK government have suggested that a clampdown on international student recruitment could be used to combat concern around rising migration.

This could involve limits being placed on the number of dependants who can accompany those with student visas – the vast majority of such dependants come from Nigeria and India.

Previous analysis by Times Higher Education revealed the universities that rely heavily on these nations and whose finances might be considered particularly at risk from any crackdown from Westminster.

The latest figures show a similar picture – with the 10 institutions containing the highest numbers of Indian and Nigerian students largely unchanged from 2020-21.

The University of Hertfordshire remains the most popular, with 2,375 students from Nigeria and 5,825 from India – a total of 8,200.

This was followed by Coventry University (a combined total of 6,645) and Ulster University (6,120).

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Reader's comments (1)

It seems quite ridiculous that students can bring in "dependents" when they are supposed to be studying and so would have no income to support them.