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UK: growth in int’l student numbers, jump in new enrolments from India

There is good news for the UK sector with HESA’s first release of data 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.

Despite concerns over the impact of Brexit, the number of first-year students from other EU countries also increased. Photo: Pexels

More than a third (35%) of all non-EU students came from China in 2018/19

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

“We will continue to work with key partners..so that our HE sector can benefit from 600,000 international students by 2030″

And while China sent more students to the UK than any other country, it was Indian students which 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.

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.

And despite concerns over the impact of Brexit, the number of first-year students from other EU countries also increased on 2017/18 figures, up from 139,150 to 143,025 in the most recent cycle.

More than a third (35%) of all non-EU students came from China in 2018/19, with numbers having increased from 89,540 to 120,385 in the five years since 2014.

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 (20,120), Hong Kong (16,135) and Malaysia (13,835) 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.

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 (9,920) students.


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

“We will continue to work with other key partners… to deliver our International Education Strategy so that our HE sector can benefit from 600,000 international students by 2030.”

Director of Universities UK International, Vivienne Stern 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,” Stern continued, adding, “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”

“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.

“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,” Stern concluded.

Top 10 sending countries to the UK in 2018/19:
  1. China 120,385 (+13% since 17/18)
  2. India 26,685 (+35%)
  3. United States 20,120 (+7%)
  4. Hong Kong 16,135 (-1%)
  5. Malaysia  13,835 (-8%)
  6. Italy 13,965 (level with 17/18)
  7. France 13,675 (level with 17/18)
  8. Germany 13,475 (-1%)
  9. Nigeria 10,645 (+1%)
  10. Greece 9,920 (-2%)

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