There is good news for the UK sector with the first release of data by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) for the 2018/19 academic year: international student numbers are up by 5.9% on the previous period – with a notable 42% hike in new student enrolments from India.

According to HESA statistics, a total of 485,645 international students were studying in higher education institutions in the UK in 2018/19, up from 458,490 in 2017/18.

And while China sent more students to the UK than any other country, it was Indian students who made the most significant change to the statistics concerning new starts.

This is for the entry year during which the UK government announced that it would be offering post-study work rights – widely anticipated by education agencies in southeast Asia to herald a further regional shift to the UK for higher education.

Student trends from outside the EU

Non-EU first-year student numbers grew by 18,475 to reach a total of 342,620, with the majority of the increase occurring at postgraduate taught level.

More than a third (35%) of all non-EU students came from China in 2018/19. India was the second top sending country, with numbers up from 18,325 in 2014/15 to 26,685 in 2018/19. This included 17,760 new student enrolments, marking an impressive jump of 42% on 2017/18 figures for new starts.

The US, Hong Kong, and Malaysia rounded out the top five sending countries to the UK in 2018/19.

Nigeria, in ninth position, was the only other non-EU sending country to have made the top 10 with 10,645 students – but overall this marked a 41% decline in numbers over the five-year period.

EU students also interested in the UK

Despite concerns over the impact of Brexit, the number of first-year students from other EU countries also increased on 2017/18 figures. In terms of EU numbers, Italy, Germany, and France each had more than 13,000 students studying in the UK in 2018/19, with Greece rounding out the top 10 sending countries with just shy of 10,000 students.

Posting on social media, UK Universities minister Chris Skidmore said he welcomed the figures, describing them as a sign that the country is competing well in the global race for international students as the UK targets 600,000 by the end of the decade.

Vivienne Stern, Director of Universities UK International, was also pleased to see that international student numbers are continuing to grow in the UK. She pointed to a recent UUKi study that showed how international students are highly satisfied with their experiences at UK universities, as well as enjoying significant career benefits after graduating:

The growth in the number of international students studying in the UK is testament to this world-class offer. The 42% growth in the number of new Indian student enrolments in 2018/19 is particularly notable. Visa application numbers indicate that this growth will continue, suggesting that Indian student numbers are set to reach numbers not seen since 2011 in the coming years.

The number of Indian students studying in the UK has been increasing rapidly since 2017 after a period of decline in 2012 following the closure of the post-study work visa. However, in 2019, the UK government announced plans to reintroduce the two-year post-study work visa, heralded as a catalyst for the increase in UK Tier 4 sponsored study visas granted last year.

Ms. Stern also added:

We know that students in India, and around the world, will be encouraged by the announcement of the new two-year graduate visa route and we are working with the government to ensure that this is implemented as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Source: The PIE News