A sharp decline has been observed in the number of Indian students going to UK for higher studies. The report by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), which has the task of studying the impact of international students in the UK, states that increasing worldwide competition to attract international students is responsible for this. But while it acknowledged the sharp drop in Indian student numbers in recent years, it sought to blame that largely on “adverse” media coverage.
International students serve as an important export market for the UK as they bring economic benefit, their export value being £17.6 billion in 2015.
“The UK’s market of students from India has fallen sharply in recent years, while remaining stable for those students from China. The number of students from India fell from a peak of 24,000 in 2010-11 to fewer than 10,000 in 2016-17,” the report notes, which it says reflects a fall by 11 percentage points since 2010.
“This is probably connected to the ending of some sponsor licences and the change in the post-study work offer. There has also been adverse coverage of the UK as a place to study in the Indian press,” it adds.
Although it recommended an overall easier transition from student to work visas for talented applicants, it dismissed the need for an exclusive post-study visa route, seen as central to attracting students from countries like India. UK has also been proposing a new ‘Global Graduate Talent Visa’ to allow qualified international students to work in a skilled job for a period of two years after graduation.
Prof Janet Beer, President of Universities UK, said the organisation was not happy with the report’s main recommendations. She further added that the number of students will only increase if the UK adopts a more encouraging immigration system.
The MAC report also concluded there was no case for international students to be removed from the government’s annual migration targets.
“If there is a problem with students in the target, it is with the target itself rather than the inclusion of students in the target,” said MAC Chairman Professor Alan Manning. Campaigners warn that while the UK continues to count international students as long-term migrants in its net migration target, there is continued pressure to reduce their numbers.