Valid: 25 August to 24 November 2011

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Interpreting the figures

There are a number of different measures that can be used to monitor numbers of people coming to the United Kingdom for study.

For those students who are subject to immigration control, administrative information is available on student visas and visa extensions, as well as records of students admitted.  The International Passenger Survey (IPS), run by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), provides estimates of all students arriving in the UK, with the ONS migration statistics focussing on those who intend to stay for a year or more. Research into students has also been published, for example Migrant Journey Analysis that involved linking records to give a more complete picture as to what happened to a group of students over a five year period.

These various statistics and research can appear to give different pictures of student immigration. Often this is because the latest data for different measures cover different time periods.  In addition, they also count different aspects of the immigration process, with some showing intentions or permissions, whilst others show actual events.

The Immigration Statistics User Guide provides further details.

Except for sections on dependants and student visitors, all numbers in this summary relate to students excluding dependants and ‘Student visitors’ who come to study for less than six months. The IPS estimates relate to non-EU citizens and those who come to the United Kingdom for 12 months or longer. This is to provide a reasonable comparison between the IPS estimates and Home Office administrative data. Data are provided to the nearest thousand; the accompanying tables provide unrounded data (except for admissions data).

Key facts

Over the last five years student immigration has seen a general increase, with the range of measures showing that numbers rose particularly rapidly in 2009. The increase in 2009 was largely driven by an increase in students from Asia.

For the year ending December 2010 (the latest available across all data sets), there was a 7% fall in student entry clearance visas issued from the previous year (down from 273,000 to 254,000). This compares to an increase of less than 1% in those arriving (up from 270,000 to 271,000). The IPS estimate for non-EU students arriving to study for more than a year increased by 9% (up from 163,000 to 178,000).

Since the year ending December 2010, the number of student visas increased slightly to 271,000 in the year to June 2011. However, this is still lower than the peak of 288,000 in the year ending June 2010.

Data tables

Data on student immigration, sourced from Home Office administrative systems, can be found in the following tables:

The ONS publish data on student immigration, while the Higher Education Statistics Authority publish data on international students.

Comparison of sources of data on student immigration.
The chart shows the trends of visas issued, passenger arrivals and International Passenger Survey (IPS) estimates of immigration for study between year ending December 2005 and the latest data published. The data are sourced from Tables be.04 and ad.01. Estimates from the IPS are available from Office for National Statistics.
Chart notes

Source: Home Office, Immigration Statistics April - June 2011, Tables be.01 and ad.01; Office for National Statistics.
(1) Excludes dependants and student visitors for greater consistency with non-EU immigration estimates based on the International Passenger Survey.
(2) For periods prior to the year ending September 2008, the count of student arrivals is not comparable with student visas issued. This is because student arrival numbers include short-term students that are able to be excluded from the visa time series.

The above chart shows that IPS estimates, while being substantially lower, follow a broadly similar trend to student visas issued and passenger arrivals, with increases in all three series during 2009 followed by recent decreases. One reason why IPS estimates of students arriving are lower than figures for student visas issued or passenger arrivals, is that the IPS figures exclude the many students who intend to stay for less than a year. Further reasons are described in the Immigration Statistics User Guide.

Despite the general trend being similar, IPS estimates appear to show that the number of students arriving continued to increase in year ending September 2010, while visas issued and admissions fell. However, this apparent discrepancy could be due to the potential for a margin of error that are inherent in surveys, together with a possible increase in those intending to stay for more than a year, against an overall decrease in student numbers.

The peak in the visas issued in the year to June 2010 was mostly driven by more study visas issued between August 2009 and January 2010 compared to twelve months earlier and later; in February 2010, UK Border Agency temporarily suspended student visa applications from a number of countries which had shown a spike in applications. Following the suspension, numbers of visa applications and issues appear to have dropped.


Latest quarterly data show that in the year to June 2011, the number of study entry clearance visas issued was 271,000 a decrease of 6% on a year earlier (288,000).

The recent decline follows, broadly, an increasing trend in student visas issued within a 12 month period between the year to December 2005 (176,000) and June 2009 (204,000), followed by a higher rate of increase to a peak in the year to June 2010 (288,000).


Latest quarterly data show that the number of student admissions was 271,000 in the year to December 2010, an increase of less than 1% on the previous year (270,000).

When considering study, excluding student visitors, since the introduction of the student visitor category, admissions and entry visa numbers follow a similar trend, as all those wishing to stay for six months or more require a visa.

Immigration for study

In 2010, the IPS estimate for non-EU students arriving to study for more than a year increased by 9% since the previous year (up from 163,000 to 178,000), although this is down on the year to September 2010.

Source: ONS, Long-Term International Migration, Provisional International Passenger Survey (IPS) estimates of long-term international migration.

Extensions of stay

Latest data for the year to June 2011 show that there was a 3% increase in grants of extensions of stay for study (from 113,000 in the year to June 2010 to 117,000). This follows a decrease of 19% in the year to June 2009 (105,000) compared with the year to June 2008 (130,000).

Staying in the UK

Research undertaken for the Migrant Journey Analysis showed that, of migrants granted student visas in 2004, one in five (21%) appear to have remained in the immigration system after five years. The analysis of UK Border Agency data suggests that these were split between those who remained as students (6%), and those granted further stay for work and family reasons (through marriage, for example). Only a small number of those issued with student visas in 2004 had been granted settlement.

Source: Migrant Journey Analysis, Home Office Migration Research


For the year ending December 2010 (the latest available across all data sets), dependants of students accounted for: 32,000 entry clearance visas (a 5% rise on 2009); 23,300 passenger arrivals (a 10% rise on 2009) and 20,000 extensions of stay (a 4% decrease on 2009). 

Student visitors

In the year to June 2011, 54,000 people were issued student visitor visas. In the main, these people can stay for less than six months. In the year to December 2010, 240,000 persons were admitted under student visitor rules. Student Visitor visas are not required for non-visa nationals (e.g. United States); however, non-visa nationals will be included in the passenger arrivals data as a student visitor. This means that student visitor arrivals are considerably higher than student visitor visas issued.

Student visitors have a maximum 6 month visa, except in a small number of cases following a recent change in the rules, and have to leave the country in order to apply for further stay.  Therefore they are not counted as long-term migrants or in the extensions of stay data.

Between 2004 and 2008, the total number of persons (including their dependants) admitted for study has increased by 27% from 307,000 to 391,000. A significant proportion of this increase may be due to the rules surrounding the introduction of the student visitor category in September 2007, as some coming to study for a short period would have been counted as visitors.

Nationalities arriving to study

Of the total number of students admitted in 2010, 63% (172,000) were from Asia, a change from 2008 when only 51% (114,000) were nationals of counties in Asia.

The increases in student admissions seen in late 2009 and early 2010 were mainly driven by Asian nationals. Between 2008 and 2009, there were large increases in numbers of students arriving from India, Bangladesh and Nepal, with a total increase of 46,000 (almost two and a half times) across the three countries. Following the temporary suspension of visa applications from northern India, Bangladesh and Nepal in 2010, student admissions fell from nationals of these countries, although levels in 2010 continued to be significantly above those seen in 2008. There were also increased student admissions from nationals of other Asian countries between 2008 and 2010, in particular China (up 15,000 or 54%), Sri Lanka (up 4,000 or 139%) and Pakistan (up 15,000 or 181%); the increase from China and Sri Lanka has been a steady increase, while the increase from Pakistan was mainly seen between 2009 and 2010.

These proportions are significantly different to student visitor admissions, where 62% (149,000) of student visitor arrivals were from the Americas.

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Date: Thu Aug 25 09:30:00 BST 2011

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