Still falling: students from India and the subcontinent spurn the UK

Figures show sharp drop in entrants from the subcontinent. Chris Havergal reports

September 25, 2014

The number of Indian students starting university courses in the UK has continued to fall after almost halving over two years, according to a new report.

A survey of more than 100 institutions by Universities UK shows that despite growth in overall overseas recruitment in the latest academic year, there appear to have been further drops in enrolment from certain countries.

Data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that the number of Indian students starting courses in the UK fell by 49 per cent in the two years to 2012-13, from 23,985 to 12,280. Over the same period, the number of students recruited from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia dropped by 38 per cent and 35 per cent respectively.

Growing recruitment from China, Malaysia and Hong Kong meant that the overall decline in the number of first-year students from overseas over the two years was 1.3 per cent, from 174,225 to 171,910.

However, the report also says that students from countries where recruitment was decreasing were more likely to take postgraduate courses, a lucrative source of income for universities, while growth countries had high proportions of students taking undergraduate degrees.

There was also a 10 per cent drop in enrolment on to science, engineering, technology and maths courses over the two years, which UUK says is driven by declining numbers of people taking courses that are traditionally popular with students from the Indian subcontinent, such as computer science.

Most worryingly, a survey of recruitment for 2013-14, which attracted responses from 104 institutions, found that the decline in demand from India and Pakistan appeared to be continuing, even though there was growth in recruitment overall. Institutions recruiting from India said that they had welcomed nearly 800 fewer students from the country in 2013-14 compared with the previous year.

The survey also asked about applications for study in 2014-15, with 43 universities saying that they had seen a decrease in the number of Indian students applying, compared with 19 reporting an increase.

Paul Blomfield, Labour MP and member of the Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, said that the “further significant fall” in recruitment from India created “real risks” for UK universities as they may become “overdependent on specific countries that are developing their own universities, like China”.

At an event at the Conservative Party Conference on 29 September, Nicola Dandridge, the UUK chief executive, is due to repeat calls for students to be removed from the government’s net migration target. “We do not want to lose our leading position as a destination for the increasing numbers of students who want a higher education overseas,” she told Times Higher Education.


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