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How low can it go?

Hotcourses Director of Insights, Aaron Porter, examines dwindling Indian student numbers in the UK

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Last week we got confirmation of what many in the UK HE sector had feared for years was coming. The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) published data which outlined that India had slipped to 3rd in the list of countries sending students to the UK (behind China and now the USA).


The downward trajectory in numbers heading from India to the UK is not new news. Since 2010, numbers have started to slide significantly. Indeed between 2010 and 2014, there are almost 14,000 fewer enrolments from India to the UK, with a drop of 10% alone between 2013 and 2014. The immigration position of the British government under Home Secretary Theresa May, has largely been blamed for the fact that the UK is fast losing ground to competitors such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States in the race for international students. The removal of the Post Study Work entitlement in particular is having a devastating impact on recruitment from India to the UK, with universities feeling the brunt of disappointing figures.


Looking to the future, the numbers look like things could get even worse. Delving into data across Hotcourses international websites for the year 2015, there is clear evidence that Indian demand in the UK has weakened during the year, which is likely to lead to a further reduction for starters in September 2016.


When placed in a basket with the United States, Australia and the UK, in the first 6 months of 2015 the share of searches from students in India between the respective destinations countries is as follows:


Indian students looking at either UK, USA or Australia over 2015:


January – June 2015                                        July 2015 – December 2015

USA – 46.5%                                                       USA – 53.1%

UK – 30.8%                                                         Australia – 25.8%

Australia – 22.6%                                              UK – 21.1%


Our data suggests for the first time, that more students from India are now actively considering Australia over the UK. And that both the USA and Australia are benefitting from the marked drop (30.% to 21.1%, a drop of 9.7%) in students looking at the UK. This data is particularly worth noting because it allows institutions to gain an insight into demand from within the current cycle of applications, no need to wait until students actually arrive, something can be done beforehand.


Given our ability to shine a light on the current in-year application data for those in the system for 2016, it shows that there is no sign of a recovery in the decline from India to the UK, if anything it points to a speeding up of the decline with Australia and the USA in particular as the big winners.


The British government maintains that they want the UK to be seen as ‘open and welcoming’ to international students, but for those from India at the very least that message doesn’t appear to be cutting through.

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