LONDON: The number of international students attending England’s universities has dropped for the first time in three decades, a study said on Wednesday, with students from India and Pakistan hit by tighter visa rules.
The Higher Education Funding Council for England found foreign student numbers declined by 1.5 per cent in 2012-2013 — the first fall in 29 years. Numbers fell to 307,205, down from 311,800 the previous year.
The drop raises concerns that tougher immigration laws are driving away genuine students and risking the higher education sector’s income.
Meanwhile the trebling of annual maximum tuition fees to 9,000 a year is deterring European Union students, according to the report.
The number of full-time EU undergraduate entrants to English higher education institutions dropped from 23,440 last year to 17,890 — a fall of 23.7 per cent — which the study said was “probably due to the increased tuition fees”.
Heavy reductions in postgraduate entrants since 2010-11 have slashed numbers from India (51 per cent, 7,000 students) and Pakistan (49 per cent, 1,400 students). However, there was strong growth coming from China (44 per cent, 8,300 students).
The study found that almost as many Chinese students were studying full-time postgraduate courses as English ones.
The University and College Union (UCU) said changes to the rules governing student visas and domestic concern about immigration were damaging Britain’s image abroad, giving the impression to students from India and Pakistan that they were not welcome.
At the same time, other countries were striving to attract more foreign students.