The number of Indian students being granted Tier 4 visas to study at UK universities has seen a six percent increase for the first time since 2009, according to official government data.
Based on figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), between July and September this year, 8,692 student visas were approved for Indian applicants, which was 468 more than during the same period the year before.
Tier 4 visa applications from Indians to study in the UK increased by 5 percent between 2015 and 2016 to 9,207, the highest jump since 2013.
The slump over the past three years has been attributed to the abolition of post-study work visas in 2012, which had been a major drawing factor for Indian students.
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The data also showed a 2.6 percent increase in Tier 4 visas issued in the third quarter of 2016 for applicants worldwide, compared to the same period in 2015.
Speaking to Times Higher Education, Richard Everitt, director of education at British Council India, said the increase was an “important market breakthrough point”, mainly due to the fact that the third quarter was such an important period.
Everitt added that “deeper relationships” between higher education institutions in the UK and India, improved transparency over the Tier 4 visa application process, and a rise in scholarship opportunities for Indian students to study in the UK were likely behind the increase.
Indian students, who have been known to study more “traditional” subjects such as business and engineering, were also notably choosing a wider range of subjects to pursue.
“Now we’re seeing [more choosing] law, media, fashion, and a broader range of subjects, and the UK has good offers in all those areas,” he commented.
— The Indian Express (@IndianExpress) December 16, 2016
However, Vivienne Stern, director of Universities UK International, cautioned against getting “overexcited” over the slight increase, though she added that it was a positive indicator of the industry’s ongoing work to promote higher education in the UK to Indian students, which appeared to be “having some traction”.
“We are working really hard to address misconceptions about the UK as a destination for study,” she said, noting that “messages around visas are sometimes over-interpreted by the Indian media”.
Indeed, during Prime Minister Theresa May’s visit to India in November, student visas were a key issue that the Indian government appeared keen to discuss, though it was ultimately disappointed at May’s snub of calls for a more lenient visa system.
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