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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/immigration-statistics-year-ending-march-2020/why-do-people-come-to-the-uk-to-study
Data relate to the year ending March 2020 and all comparisons are with the year ending March 2019, unless indicated otherwise. A more detailed annual summary can be found in ‘Immigration statistics, year ending June 2019 second edition’.
This section contains data on:
- sponsored study (Tier 4) visas
- Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) by education sector
- short-term students
1. Immigration for study
In the year ending March 2020, there were 299,023 Sponsored study (Tier 4) visas granted (including dependants), a 23% increase on the year ending March 2019, and the highest level since the year ending June 2011.
Chinese nationals were the most common nationality granted Tier 4 visas in the year ending March 2020, up 18% compared with the year ending March 2019 to 118,530 (accounting for 40% of the total). The number of grants to Chinese students is now more than double the number in 2012. Indian nationals also saw a notable increase in the number of Tier 4 visas granted, more than doubling (up 136% to 49,844) compared with the year ending March 2019, continuing an increase seen since 2016. This was the largest number of grants to Indian students since the year ending September 2011, before new sponsorship arrangements were introduced on the Tier 4 route.
Those coming on Tier 4 visas bring relatively few dependants, with 94% of the visas issued being to main applicants, compared with 71% for Work visas.
Table 1: Top 51 nationalities granted Sponsored study (Tier 4) visas
|Nationality||YE March 2019||YE March 2020||Change||Percentage change|
- Top 5 nationalities in the most recent year.
- ‘Other nationalities’ includes all nationalities that don’t feature in the top 5 in the latest year.
In addition to those coming on Tier 4 visas, there were 117,534 Short-term student visas granted in the year ending March 2020, a 2% increase on the year ending March 2019. There are also large numbers of people who do not require a visa for short-term study in the UK, most notably US nationals – these will not be included in this figure.
In August 2019, the Home Office published its ‘Fourth report on statistics being collected under the exit checks programme’, which showed that the vast majority (97%) of those with Tier 4 visas expiring in the year ending March 2019, were known to have departed from the UK before their visa had expired. In 2018, 46,782 former Tier 4 visa holders extended their leave in the UK, either for further study or to remain in the UK for other reasons, such as for marriage or work.
1.1 The effects of COVID-19 on immigration for study
The Home Office is publishing a separate report on 28 May 2020, which will provide a statistical overview of COVID-19 impacts on the immigration system through into April. However, some changes were already visible in the period to the end of March 2020.
In the first quarter of this year (January to March 2020), the number of Tier 4 (Sponsored study) visa applications were 65% higher than the same quarter in 2019. However, in March 2020, Tier 4 visa applications fell significantly when compared to March 2019, in particular for Chinese nationals, and likely related to COVID-19.
At the same time, the number of Tier 4 (sponsored study) visas issued in the first quarter of 2020 increased by 84% compared with the same quarter in 2019, although there were falls towards the end of March 2020.
1.2 Sponsored study visa applications
In the year ending September 2019 (the latest available data – see ‘About these statistics’ below for details), Sponsored study visa applications rose 13% to 258,787. The majority (86%) of these were for study at higher education (university) institutions, whose number increased by 14% to 222,047, the highest level on record.
Sponsored study visa applications were made for the following sectors:
- higher education (86%)
- independent schools (5%)
- further education (5%)
- English language schools (3%)
- other (1%)
The most recent Higher Education Statistics Authority’s (HESA) student statistics report, for the 2018 to 2019 academic year, reported a 10% increase in new non-EU entrants (those entering the first year of their course), which is mirrored by a 14% increase in Sponsored student visa applications for the higher education sector in the closest corresponding period (year ending September 2019).
2. About these statistics
The statistics in this section provide an indication of the number of people who have an intention to enter the UK for study reasons.
Entry clearance visas allow an individual to enter and stay in the UK within the period for which the visa is valid. EEA nationals do not require a visa to enter the UK.
Data in this section refer to the number of Entry clearance visas granted for study reasons within the period. If an individual was granted a visa more than once in a given period, this has been counted as multiple grants in the statistics. If an individual entered the UK multiple times within the period for which a visa was valid, this has been counted as one grant in the visa statistics.
The data do not show whether, or when, an individual arrived in the UK, what they did on arrival or how long they stayed in the UK.
Year-on-year comparisons of the number of decisions can be affected by quarterly fluctuations in the data. These fluctuations can be examined in the quarterly data in the published tables.
2.1 Tier 4 (Sponsored study)
Tier 4 (Sponsored study) provides a route for students to study with an approved education provider. It was implemented from 31 March 2009, replacing previous entry routes for study.
2.2 Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS)
Due to changes to the casework system in October 2019, for 2019 quarter 4 and 2020 quarter 1 it has not been possible to break down the number of Certificates of Acceptance for Study (CAS) used in ‘out of country’ (visa) applications or ‘in-country’ (extension) applications. As a result, the latest available data relate to the year ending September 2019. The issue will affect the data provided in tables CAS_D01 and CAS_D02. These statistics will be updated in due course.
To apply for a Student visa or for an extension of stay as a student (Tier 4), individuals must use a CAS from a sponsoring educational institution. Study visas applied for with a CAS are also referred to as ‘Sponsored visa applications’. Statistics relating to sponsored acceptances for study measure the number of successful sponsorship applications in the four main educational sectors: universities (higher education), further education, independent schools and English language schools.
2.3 Short-term study
The Short-term study visa (previously described as ‘Student visitor’) allows individuals to come to the UK for 6 months (or 11 months if they will be studying an English language course). Individuals with this visa cannot extend their stay. Admissions data shows considerably more Short-term student admissions from non-EEA nationals than Short-term student visas granted. This is due to many student visitor admissions being from nationalities that are not required to obtain a visa if they wish to come to the UK as a Short-term student for 6 months or less (such as US nationals).
2.4 Other sources
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) publishes LTIM estimates in its ‘Migration Statistics Quarterly Report’. These data provide estimates from the International Passenger Survey (IPS) of the number of people coming to the UK with the intention of staying for 12 months or more for work, study, family and other reasons. Estimates are available for EU, non-EU and British nationals. IPS data are not directly comparable with Home Office visa data for several reasons. See the ONS article ‘Comparing sources of international migration statistics’ for details.
In January 2020, HESA published its latest ‘Higher Education Student Statistics UK’ for the academic year 2018 to 2019. HESA publishes data on new entrants to UK higher education providers for both EEA and non-EEA nationals.
3. Data tables
Data on student immigration can be found in the following tables:
- Sponsorship summary tables
- Detailed sponsorship datasets
- Entry clearance visas summary tables
- Detailed Entry clearance visas datasets
- Admissions tables
- Extensions tables
- Detailed extensions datasets
We welcome your feedback
If you have any comments or suggestions for the development of this report, please provide feedback by emailing MigrationStatsEnquiries@homeoffice.gov.uk. Please include the words ‘PUBLICATION FEEDBACK’ in the subject of your email.
See section 7 of the ‘About this release’ section for more details.