Study-related extensions fell by more than a quarter in the year ending March 2015, but still accounted for 84% of the 74,760 visa extensions granted to students in 2014.
Work visas granted to former international students rose by 13% to 7,043 in 2014
The remaining extensions granted to international students were work visas such as graduate entrepreneurship and internship visas, which rose by 13% to 7,043 in 2014.
This category includes 5,639 Tier 2 skilled worker visas – over a third more than in 2013. Tier 2 skilled worker visas are granted to students who have job offers from UK employers to earn a minimum of £20,000 annually.
Institution-sponsored applications for study-related visa extensions, which make up the bulk of all applications to extend study, fell largely due to fewer applications for the further education sector, the Home Office said.
Meanwhile, refusals of study-related extensions also increased by 39%.
These trends are likely due to previous falls in the number of visas granted and tightening of regulations including the introduction of interviews to determine whether students are genuine, according to the Home Office.
Further restrictions have been placed on the sector since these statistics were published, meaning that international students at a further education institution will no longer be allowed to extend their visa without returning home first.
The statistics also showed that visa applications sponsored by institutions in the further education sector fell by 11% over the course of the year.
“I can confidently say that the current UK legislation has had an impact on FE colleges’ ability to recruit students, and it has made it much harder for students to get visas,” John Mountford, international director at the Association of Colleges, told The PIE News.
Mountford called for a clearer breakdown of statistics to bring about a better understanding of the FE sector, as it is impossible to tell from the figures whether public or private providers have borne the brunt of this fall.
“There certainly has been a hit on further education, that’s for sure – the extent of it is difficult to tell from the figures,” he said.
“There is lack of clarity from the Home Office around where government further education colleges stop and private colleges start, when it comes to statistics and legislation.”
The number of educational institutions that can sponsor student visas fell by 8% in the year ending 31 March 2015 to 1,543, the majority of which were FE institutions.
Last year, 65 private colleges lost their ability to sponsor Tier 4 student visas in the six-month period following the announcement of a Home Office investigation into immigration fraud in June, after it found that some 45,000 immigrants may have fraudulently obtained English language test certificates.
The Home Office attributed the decrease in the number of sponsoring educational institutions to new accreditation criteria and compliance policy for educational sponsors, introduced in April 2011.