Although the number of non-EU international students attending British universities rose by 2% last year, the number of students from India fell by nearly a quarter after the introduction of more stringent visa rules by the Home Office. According to The Daily Telegraph, roughly 40,000 students from India were enrolled in universities around the country prior to last year. That number dropped to less than 30,000 in the last year for which data is available.
The data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency shows a substantial drop among students from Pakistan as well. Year-to-year, 13.4% fewer Pakistanis enrolled in British universities.
The drop was especially surprising in light of the fact that the number of non-EU students actually rose last year by more than 5,000 to 302,680. Most of the increase is accounted for by students from countries like China, Indonesia and Singapore.
Universities have warned that recent changes to student visa rules mean they face losing bright students from countries like India to rival colleges in the United States and Australia. Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said: "The drop in numbers of international students from certain countries during this period is a real cause for concern.
"This slowdown follows years of growth and comes as international demand for higher education has been on the rise. Competitor countries do not seem to be experiencing such stagnation."
Criticism of the new, tougher visa policy has come from more than just university heads. Mayor of London Boris Johnson called on lawmakers to stop including students in their immigration target figures and to allow them more flexibility in staying on in Britain past graduation. Previously, international students who graduated from British universities were allowed to stay on and work for an additional two years. Recent policy changes lengthened that period to three years, but added a condition that this time might only be utilized by those who found a graduate-level job that paid at least £20,000 per annum.
Thanks to the new rules, India dropped from the first to second place for the number of students it sends to British universities. Taking over the top slot is China with 78,715 students, representing a nearly 17% increase over the year prior. In contrast, last year India sent fewer than half as many students to British schools, and families there are now more likely to consider universities in the United States or elsewhere.
Rounding out the top 5 is Nigeria, the only African country on the list, followed by the U.S, Germany and Ireland.