Immigration by Students - Main Points


  • In March 2019, the government set a target to have 600,000 students enrolled in UK higher education (HE) by 2030 - a 30% increase on 2017/18. This target had already been reached by 2020/21 (Higher Education Statistics Agency, or HESA).
  • A record 440,000 study visa were granted in year to March 2022 (Home Office).
  • The University Admissions Service (UCAS) predict further increase of 50% in international undergraduate applicants by 2026 (see media report).
  • The top 20 HE providers at which non-UK students were enrolled made up 7% of 282 organisations, yet accounted for 38% of the total number of students enrolled (or 230,000 out of just over 600,000) – HESA data for 2020/21.
  • In four institutions (all in London), the majority of students were from overseas.
  • Areas with high numbers of non-UK students are London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Coventry, Glasgow, Sheffield, Leeds, Warwick and Hertfordshire (Hatfield).
  • Study visas are a major long-term immigration route: 120,000 people stayed on after expiry of their initial study visa (in 2018/19), with most granted further visas enabling them to remain for more study, work or family reasons (ONS). It is not true that 97% of students leave after initial visa expiry; 40% stay on (summary).
  • Around 20,000 people per year have been granted a permanent stay in the UK after having originally arrived on a study visa. This route is not meant to be a direct route to settling in the UK (Home Office migrant journey report).
  • There are between 10,000 and 20,000 per year for whom there is no clear record of departure (according the ONS) – indicating potential overstaying.
  • Driving up study visas higher than the current record would not be wise, especially during the present housing, economic and health crises.
  • A weakening of study visa requirements means more potential for the return of abuse and fraud which reached a peak during from 2009-11.
  • 61% of the public say overseas students should not receive priority in our new immigration system (Deltapoll, 2020).

Other Relevant Immigration by Students Research

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Over the 21 years that Migration Watch UK has been working in this field we have produced many papers.

View Immigration by Students Library

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