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Fall in new Commonwealth student numbers

The number of students from countries such as India and Pakistan coming to the UK to study has dropped by about 25,000, according to official statistics.

New migration figures show that a “statistically significant” decrease in the immigration of non-EU citizens in the year ending September 2013 was due to “fewer New Commonwealth citizens migrating to the UK for formal study”.

Home Office data shows that the decline has been in “non-university sectors” such as further education colleges, English language schools and independent schools.

The drop contrasts with an overall increase in the net flow of migrants to the UK from 154,000 in the year ending September 2012 to 212,000 in 2013.

Critics of the Government’s stricter visa rules will seize on the figures as proof that international students are choosing to study elsewhere. The number of long-term migrants arriving in the UK to has steadily declined since a peak of 246,000 in 2011. In the year ending September 2013 it stood at 176,000.

The Office for National Statistics quarterly report said: “Home Office data show that the recent decline in people arriving to study has been in the non- university sectors and predominantly from citizens of New Commonwealth countries.”

Since 2010/11, the number of New Commonwealth long-term migrants stating that they came to the UK to study has reduced by two-thirds to 34,000 in the year ending September 2013, its lowest level since 2002.

Immigration of other foreign citizens (the main other non-EU citizenship group, which includes China) for study remained at a similar level in the year ending September 2013 (87,000) compared to the year ending September 2012 (85,000).

ONS figures to the year ending December 2013 show there were 218,773 visas issued for the purposes of study (excluding student visitors), a rise of 4 per cent but still almost a third lower compared with the peak in the year ending June 2010 (320,183).

Data on sponsored applications for visas suggests that the falls in visas issued for study have been in the non-university sector.

The number of sponsored student visa applications remained at a similar level, 210,100, in the year ending December 2013. However there was a 7 per cent increase for the university sector and falls of 34 per cent, 2 per cent and 2 per cent respectively for the further education sector, English language schools and independent schools compared to a year earlier.

FE and language schools have warned that the government's hardening of international student visa rules is having a devastating effect. Fears have also been raised that as many students go on from FE and language schools to UK universities, declining numbers could have a knock-on effect on higher education.
Recent research by Universities UK warned that the visa restrictions may mean many more overseas students choose to study in the US and Canada rather than the UK, taking £350m a year in lost revenue with them.

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