Visas granted to Indian nationals to study at universities in the UK have more than doubled over the past year, according to official statistics released here on Thursday. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that Indian nationals accounted for 17 per cent of the total 299,023 sponsored study visas granted by the UK Home Office in the year ending March 2020, with the number more than doubling from 2019 to hit a total of 49,844 grants a continuous rise since 2016.
The ONS data found that after China, which accounted for 40 per cent of all study visas, India has been driving up Britain’s overseas student arrivals to reflect an increase in the country’s migration statistics. However, the coronavirus lockdown post-March is yet to be accounted for in the figures, which could also impact numbers from India.
“After a period of stability, we were seeing migration levels begin to increase in the past 12 months leading up to the coronavirus pandemic. This was being driven by increases in non-EU student arrivals, mainly from China and India,” said Jay Lindop, Director of the Centre for International Migration at the ONS.
“The IPS [International Passenger Service] data were collected up to March 2020 and do not take into account the significant impact the pandemic has had on international migration since then,” said Lindop. The UK’s new post-study work visa, or Graduate Route, comes in force from the 2020-21 academic year. It is expected to have a further positive impact on Indian student applications to UK universities, given the option of being able to apply for work at the end of a degree course.
However, there is some concern among British universities that many overseas students may choose to defer their plans for study abroad amid the coronavirus lockdown travel restrictions. The National Indian Students and Alumni Union UK (NISAU-UK) had conducted a survey of Indian students to assess the impact of the lockdown on the higher education sector and found that nearly half of Indian students with an admission offer to a UK university from September 2020 were unsure whether to accept.
However, 45 per cent had accepted their offers and intended to carry on with their education in the UK as planned and only 5 per cent chose to defer their offers to the next academic year. The findings coincide with those of the UK’s Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), which found that amid an overall spike in university applications for the year, most applicants from India were planning to start a course from the autumn semester, which begins next month.
In the latest ONS migration data, Indian nationals also accounted for nearly half (48 per cent) of all skilled work visas granted in the year ending June 2020, but the number of grants decreased by a quarter (25 per cent) compared with the previous year.