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Indians are falling out of love with British universities—and David Cameron is to blame

Reuters/Paul Hackett
The contingent of Indian students has shrunk.
Published This article is more than 2 years old.

A record number of Indian students are enrolling for higher education in the US—in just two years, it rose by 71% to 181,051.

But the trend’s been just the opposite for the UK.

In the last five years, the number of Indian students opting for British universities has more than halved. Data released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency, which collects statistics on public-funded British higher education, shows that the number of Indian students who enrolled there declined from 39,090 in 2010-11 to 18,320 in 2014-15. That’s a fall of 53.1%.

Meanwhile, China has seen a sharp increase in the number of its students in British universities—from 67,330 in 2010-11 to 89,540 in 2014-15, an increase of 32.9%.

China and India remain the largest contributors to the total of 312,010 non-EU students who enrolled in the UK in 2014-15. Nigeria, Malaysia, and the US are among the top five.

The decline in the number of Indian students has coincided with the British government’s decision to abolish post-study visa in 2012. The tier-1 (or post-study work visa) permitted students to stay back and work in the UK for at least two years after completing their courses. Recently, on Jan. 13, the UK government rejected Scotland’s demand to reintroduce tier-1.

“Frankly, there are lots of people in our country desperate for jobs. We don’t need the brightest and best of students to come here and then do menial jobs. That’s not what our immigration system is for,” British prime minister David Cameron said in the House of Commons.

Moreover, the UK has come down hard on diploma mills—unaccredited universities—which provided students an illegal route to migrate to the country.

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