New data on international student enrollments released by the United Kingdom’s Higher Education Statistics Agency offer insight into the effects of changes in visa policies, including the elimination of a post-study work option. The total number of international students in the U.K. increased by 1.6 percent in 2011-12, a slowdown from the 5.5 percent growth rate reported the year before.
There was a significant rise in the number of students from the U.K’s top sending country, China (up 16.9 percent). However, the number from India, the second-largest sending country, dropped 23.5 percent. There were also double-digit decreases in the numbers of students from Pakistan (-13.4 percent from the year before), Ireland (-10.5 percent), and Poland (-14.1 percent).
The U.K. experienced a small drop in the number of international graduate students (from 213,685 in 2010-11 to 209,710 in 2011-12). In a statement, Jo Beall, the British Council’s director of education and society, said the decline in international graduate enrollments was “of real concern as international students make up the majority of numbers in many post-graduate courses and research teams in the STEM [science, technology engineering and mathematics] subjects. Attracting the brightest and most ambitious post-graduate and research students is critical if the UK is to maintain its quality reputation for research and innovation.”
Beall added: "The UK’s overall growth in international student numbers of 4,570 is tiny compared to recent U.S. figures of a growth of 41,000 students over the same period. This suggests that we are beginning to lose out in an incredibly competitive market.”
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