More than half of all study-related visas have been granted to students from three nationalities – China, India and the US – with Chinese visas at 88,675, taking up 40% of the total.
“Decreases from some countries, including Nigeria and Malaysia… are concerning”
The biggest risers since the year ending in March 2018 were China and India, with increases of 15% and 30% respectively.
Other countries also showed growth. For example, 4% more students from the US obtained a visa to study in the UK, while Pakistan shows an 18% increase in visa grants.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia saw modest decreases – down 8% and 5% respectively – while Indonesian visa grants experienced a steeper decline at -28%.
Short-term study visas, which allow individuals to study in the UK for 6 months (or 11 if they are enrolled in an English language course), are not included in the Tier 4 stats but have also increased in the past year.
Although the numbers are lower, with 108,780 visas granted in the year to March 2018, the growth is even steeper in this area – indicating the popularity of ELT courses and the recovery English UK had boasted in May.
In total, 21% more short-term study visa were issued compared to the year to March 2017.
The growth from Pakistan and India is in line with an upward trend across the whole region, the British Council noted in a statement.
The Council defines the latest Home Office figures “encouraging news” for the South Asia region, where an increase in visa grants is seen across all major markets, a sign of a revival in interest for UK education in the region.
Beyond India and Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka show signs of growth.
Bangladesh continues to send a large number of international students abroad as in-country higher education opportunities can’t meet the local demand, British Council regional marketing and communications manager South Asia Aatreyee Guha Thakurta explained in the release.
In Sri Lanka instead, TNE market continues to thrive, but there are signs that student international mobility is rising as well.
The figures need to be taken with a pinch of salt as the Tier 4 visas issued in the first quarter account for a small proportion of the annual total, the British Council warned, and changes in visa rules can affect the rate of growth through the year.
A spokesperson for UUKi told The PIE News that while it’s positive that numbers of HEI-sponsored Tier 4 applicants are rising – particularly from India – it does not always equate to enrolment increases.
“It is important to remember that these are just application figures and rises in the past have not always equated to increases in actual enrolments.
“There are also continued decreases from some countries, including Nigeria and Malaysia, and these are concerning,” the spokesperson added.
Additionally, the recently announced changes in UK student visa regulations, which will make it easier for students from certain countries to obtain student visas – but exclude India – could potentially impact on future figures.