Universities detail hit to Indian demand

Several UK universities have seen the number of Indian students plummet by more than 50 per cent in recent years.

March 4, 2014

The figures came to light during a series of evidence sessions for the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, which is investigating the effects of immigration controls on international student numbers in STEM subjects.

Among the institutions that gave evidence on 4 March, Aston University said that Indian student numbers have fallen by 69 per cent per cent since 2009. At Loughborough University the number has fallen by almost 50 per cent in recent years.

Meanwhile, at the University of Manchester the number of STEM students from India fell 61 per cent between 2010 and 2012.

The 2012-13 academic year saw the first fall in the number of international students studying in the UK ever recorded. 

Evidence presented at the session by several of the universities represented suggested that changes to student visas and the perception that overseas students are not welcome in the UK are behind the falling numbers.

Georgina Rippon, pro-vice chancellor for international relations at Aston University said that postgraduate courses have taken the most significant hit in terms of international students at her institution. Student numbers for these courses have fallen 70 per cent since 2009, with a 14 per cent fall in the last year alone.

The drop in postgraduate numbers is seen most significantly in subjects allied to medicine, such as pharmacy, biomedical science and optometry, she said. These are the subjects that Indian students often came to study, she added.

Professor Rippen explained that postgraduate engineering courses have also taken a hit, but that was not as great as for subjects allied to medicine.

Ian Bradley, head of academic services in the engineering and physical sciences at University of Manchester, said that he has also seen significant drops in the number of students from Nigeria and Pakistan.

He added that the fall in international students has been larger in STEM subjects compared with the university as a whole. “The most marked drop is at postgraduate master’s level, but we have seen a worrying drop in postgraduate research recruitment,” he said.

Mr Bradley said that other countries are now recruiting more Indian students. The number of Indian students studying in the USA is up 40 per cent and in Australia 20 per cent, he added. “It is clear it is not a matter of Indian students not wanting to leave India to study, it is about where they are choosing to go,” he said.

At Loughborough, vice-chancellor Robert Allison said that the university has picked up students from China coming to study business and economics to replace the numbers lost in STEM subjects.

But not all university representatives quizzed by the committee had seen a fall in international numbers.

Colin Riordan, vice-chancellor of the University of Cardiff, said that his institution has seen growth. But he added that this has not been as strong as expected given the level of investment by the institution.


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