In the 2018 calendar year, 241,054 Tier 4 sponsored study visas were issued, an eight per cent increase compared with the previous year and the highest level since 2011, the Home Office said. Changes to the Tier 4 visa system removing post-study work rights were announced in 2011 and implemented in 2012.
The growth was almost entirely driven by the top two source countries. There was a 13 per cent increase in Tier 4 visas issued to Chinese students to 99,723 in 2018, while visas granted to Indian students jumped by 35 per cent to 19,505.
Meanwhile, the number of short-term student visas (for study up to 11 months) granted in 2018 increased by 6.9 per cent to 114,202.
In terms of sponsored student visa applications made during 2018, the Home Office said that there was an eight per cent growth to 229,488. The university sector accounted for 85 per cent of all applications, and increased by 10 per cent, it said.
In other sectors, there was a slight increase to 14,757 visa applications for further education level, but this was still less than half of the 32,406 applications received in 2012.
There was a 14 per cent increase for Tier 4 English language study – used for courses of 12 months or longer – to 4,523, but this was substantially below the rate received in 2011 when immigration rules changed and work rights were removed from English language students. Applications for independent schools decreased slightly to 13,113.
In a separate migration statistics paper released on the same day, the UK’s Office for National Statistics estimated that 217,000 people arrived in for study purposes in the 12 months to the year ending September 2018, which it said was a 10 per cent increase compared with prior 12 months and the highest level since 2011.
Responding to the releases, James Pitman, Managing Director for the UK and Europe at Study Group and Chair of Exporting Education UK (ExEdUK), said the growth was welcome news but that it was shame the UK was only now returning to 2011 levels.
“International student recruitment has fallen victim to the wider debate on migration in the UK. Government policy in this area has been driven by a target to reduce overall net migration, with measures designed to create a ‘hostile environment’.
“While there is now some cause to be cautiously optimistic, more positive action is needed if the UK is to regain its lost share of this valuable and growing market. The first step would be for the government to accept and implement the recommendations of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Students following its recent inquiry.”
He added, “The UK should take this opportunity to press the reset button and establish an ambitious strategy to increase recruitment and help make us more attractive relative to rival study destinations such as the USA, Australia and Canada.”
Last year, Universities UK released a research paper claiming that the UK had lost out on UK£8.1 billion of export earnings since post-study work rights were removed.
- Posted by Rhys Newcombe-Jones
- On 11/03/2019