Indian HE student numbers in UK up 35% in 2018-19

Indian HE student numbers in UK up 35% in 2018-19

Indian student numbers in UK higher education institutions were up over 35% in 2018-19 to 26,685, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The growth rate of the world’s top origin countries for international students in the UK was detailed in The International Facts and Figures 2020 report by Universities UK (UUK).

The UUK report found that India makes up the fastest growing sender of international students to the UK’s HEIs in 2018-19, registering a sharp uptick compared to the previous year.

In comparison to the figures for 2017-18, in the following academic year, the number of Indian student travelling to UK institutions rose by 35% to 26,685.

Last year, the British government announced the relaunch, from 2021, of the 2 year UK PSW post study work visa for undergraduate and postgraduate foreign students, and 3 year post study work UK Graduate Route PSW visas for foreign PhD students, who choose to study in the UK.

Chinese students in UK second-fastest growing cohort after Indian

The second-fastest growing sender of international students to the UK was China, which saw a rise of 13% to 120,385, keeping the country’s students at the top of the overall student number charts.

Besides India and China, the other countries which made up the top five origin countries for international students in the UK were the US (20,120), Hong Kong (16,135) and Malaysia (13,835).

In terms of rapid growth in nationals studying internationally, EU nations Romania with a rise of 12.5% (9,740) and Poland with an 11.1% rise (8,380) were also amongst the fastest growing senders.

The top origin countries within the EU – Italy with 13,965, France with 13,675 and Germany with 13,475 – for overall student numbers all showed a slight decrease in international student numbers, in comparison to their 2017–2018 numbers.

The importance of the international student market from outside of the EU becomes clear when it is noted that Chinese students made up 24.8% of all international students at UK higher education institutions.

Business studies in the UK most popular choice for overseas students

For the academic year 2018–2019, the most popular subjects amongst international students was business and administrative studies.

Business studies were undertaken by 133,820 international students, accounting for 27.6% of all students on these courses.

The second-most popular course type was engineering and technology (with 53,545 international students enrolled that year).

Other popular subject areas for international students include medicine and dentistry (with 11,790 students), historical and philosophical studies (10,475 students) and veterinary science (1,670).

Net economic contribution of international students to UK over £20 billion

The report also outlined the economic benefits that international students brought to the UK, stating that the total net economic contribution of international students starting in 2015/16 was estimated to be £20.3 billion.

Furthermore, with higher education-related exports in 2016 reaching £13.4bn, this field represented 2.4% of the UK’s total exports for that year. Half of this revenue stream of exports came from living expenditures alone (accounting for £6,880 million).

According to Unesco data, the UK has consistently held the position of the world’s second most popular destination for international students. However, the UK’s annual growth rate has only achieved a rate of 0.9%.

In comparison, the countries that represented the UK’s most significant competitors for hosting international students were rising at a far more rapid rate for the surveyed period.

For example, Australia was the fastest expanding English-speaking destination country, with a growth rate which is 15 times greater than that of the UK.

Other rapidly rising host countries were Japan (with a 14.6% growth in its market share), China (a 14.2% growth) and Russia (with a 11.1% growth) from the year 2016 to 2017.

Pic: Element5 Digital

Josephine Walbank - Reporter, Global Education Times (GET News)

Josephine Walbank is a reporter for Global Education Times (GET News) with a focus on education in the UK, Asia-Pacific, and Americas, and student experience and lifestyle news.

Josephine is an experienced journalist who previously served as the Editor-in-Chief of The Falmouth Anchor. She is also the former Deputy Editor of Voices, the Falmouth & Exeter Students’ Union’s publication, and has written for various food and lifestyle publications.

You can reach her at

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