Study visa applications from non-EU nationals to attend universities in the UK fell significantly in the past academic year, according to a report published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), with 163,338 applications submitted.
The report indicated that this is a “statistically significant” decline of approximately two per cent, stating that overall student immigration is at its “lowest estimate since [year ending] December 2007.”
The sharpest fall was in visa applications from citizens of South Asian countries, according to the report, with “the number coming to study having [been] almost halved.”
There was also a rise in visas being granted for short-term non-EU students in the UK since the last academic year, ending in June 2015. The UK granted 82,318 visas for these students, a 28 per cent increase, according to the ONS.
This year’s results show that visa applications, including those from EU nationals, to study in UK universities fell less than those to study at other educational institutions, such as further education colleges (eight per cent and 25 per cent respectively).
Speaking to The Student, Jane O’Loughlin, University of Edinburgh’s International Student Advisor, said: “It’s very difficult to say [how many non-EU study visa applications the university gets, because] the information would be available, but it’s across a number of different admissions departments …the exact figures are not accessible immediately.”
“It is in the University’s Strategic Plan to encourage international students from outside the EU, and international students in general, to come to the University,” O’Loughlin continued.
The new Strategic Plan, due to be released in full on 20 September, outlines management’s steps to keep the University of Edinburgh at the forefront of education over the next five years.
The plan includes increasing the University’s reach by encouraging global co-operation through research partnerships and to “improve access to an Edinburgh degree to the world’s brightest and best, irrespective of their background.”
The Strategic Plan also recognises the importance of “the international profile of [the University of Edinburgh’s] staff and students.”
O’Loughlin told The Student: “Because it is the University’s Strategic Plan, it is generic, but from it the different departments will have their own Strategic Plan detailing how they are going to attract students.”
Many international student interest groups have been using the recently published ONS statistics to further their lobby against the reported “crackdown” on student immigration on the part of Prime Minister Theresa May. Study Group is one such organisation, with their business being based around helping students from the global community receive education from top partner institutions around the world.
In a statement to Times Higher Education, James Pitman, Study Group’s higher education managing director, said: “If we (the UK) are to maintain our position as a global education powerhouse […]the government must give both EU and non-EU students a fair deal and take overseas students out of net migration targets.”
Universities UK, another organisation which represents the voices and opinions of University educators across the UK, has also come out against the Prime Minister’s planned actions. A spokesperson from Universities UK told Times Higher Education: “The UK needs a new government strategy to encourage more international students and academics to come to the UK. This is more important than ever as the UK looks to enhance its place in the world post-Brexit. Recruitment figures over the last few years have not done justice to our potential to increase our success in this global growth area.”