Foreign students are making the decision to study in the UK in significantly fewer numbers, new figures reveal.
The estimated number of foreign students, those from outside of the EU, arriving to study in the UK in 2016 was 134,000, a drop from the previous year’s 175,000 – a decline of 41,000 students.
These numbers represent the lowest level of foreign student immigration since 2002, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), with students making up 22% of all long-term immigration to the UK.
This decline in numbers is part of a larger decline in net migration following the Brexit vote, with total net migration to the UK dropping by 49,000 to 273,000 last year.
Immigration minister Robert Goodwill welcomed the report, however he also stressed that the figures may not overall be that significant:
“The fall in net migration is encouraging,” he said. “But this is just one set of statistics and we must not get carried away. We will continue to make progress to bring down net migration to the tens of thousands.”
Goodwill again stressed his view that the only way for Britain to reduce its levels of immigration to his desired level of tens of thousands is for Britain to leave the European Union.
The ONS also notes that the number of student visa applications has only seen a slight drop of 1% from the previous year, while short-term visa grants have increased by 32%.
Most notably, the number of students from South Asia studying in the UK dropped by 23,000 from 82 000 in 2016, making up 68% of the total number of foreign students studying in the UK.
These numbers come following plans from Home Secretary Amber Rudd to reduce the number of foreign students studying in Britain.
Rudd faced condemnation following plans to introduce a two-tier visa system for non-EU students in order to lower the number of international students, with post-study visas only becoming available to those studying at ‘prestigious universities’.
Speaking at the Conservative Party conference last year, Rudd said: “Our consultation will ask what more can we do to support our best universities – and those that stick to the rules – to attract the best talent … while looking at tougher rules for students on lower quality courses.”
At the time of Rudd’s announcement, the University of Stirling advised that student immigration laws “must reflect the diversity of institutions across the UK and recognise the enormous contribution international students make to our universities”.”
You can read the full ONS report here.