LONDON – An unprecedented 13 percent drop has been recorded in the number of Pakistani students enrolling at the British universities due to the stringent immigration rules introduced by the current government.
The latest figures released by the UK Higher Education Statistical Agency (HESA) also show the number of postgraduate students travelling from non-EU countries to study at UK universities has fallen for the first time in 16 years, fuelling fears that the government’s immigration crackdown is deterring thousands of the brightest students from continuing their studies in Britain.
The recent introduction of new limitations on students’ right to work during and after their studies has contributed to a 25 percent drop in the number from India, and a 13 percent drop in the number of new students from Pakistan for the year 2012-2013, reveal the HESA new findings.
Jo Beall, British Council director of education and society, told the Guardian newspaper that the fall would be cause of alarm among UK vice-chancellors.
“The sector was expecting a decline in growth, but the actual reduction in postgraduate numbers is of real concern as international students make up the majority of numbers in many postgraduate courses and research teams in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Attracting the brightest and most ambitious postgraduate and research students is critical if the UK is to maintain its quality reputation for research and innovation,” Beall said.
Last week, 11 UK universities raised concerns about what they called the “economically disastrous and socially divisive” neglect of postgraduate students. And this week Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said the government’s tough rhetoric on immigration was undermining the UK market in foreign students.
According to HESA, universities get 10 percent of their total income and a third of their tuition fee revenue from non-EU students. There is growing fear among vice-chancellors that this revenue as well as the cultural, academic and economic benefit international students bring is being put at risk.
Tim Westlake, director for the student experience at Manchester University, said students whose families relied on them working in the UK after their studies to gain experience and repay the fees were starting to look elsewhere.
“Since 2004 the university has had significant growth in Indian students, but over the past two years there has been a 32 percent drop in Indian master’s enrollments. Master’s applications from India are down again by 33 percent this year,” Tim added.