Student UK visa applications rise

The report shows an almost 10% increase in UK visa applications from China and almost 20% in applications from India.

The figures present a stark contrast to predictions from universities and immigration advocates who claim the Government's attempts to reduce net migration to the UK have damaged the UK's reputation as a world leader in international education.

The Conservative-led coalition Government has made significant changes to UK immigration policy in the past year which have affected international students; this has included the removal of the post-study work route for almost all jobs and the introduction of salary caps.

Critics of the changes have previously condemned the Government's actions as damaging one of the UK's most profitable industries instead of tackling other routes of immigration.

However, Immigration Minister Mark Harper says the latest figures show the Government's commitment to the UK's international education industry.

"The increase in non-EEA student applications is further proof that the UK remains open to the brightest and the best international students," said the minister.

"In particular, numbers from India and China have seen big increases. This shows that, despite rhetoric to the contrary, students continue to want to come to the UK to study at our world class universities.

The minister maintains that changes affecting the student visa system are only intended to clamp down on abuse of the system while critics contend that genuine students are also hindered.

"We have tackled abuse of the student route head on without affecting genuine students. By protecting the reputation of the British education system we will be able to compete in a global race."

Critics of the Government's changes argument lies in the notion that international students - who typically stay for three or four years and then leave - should not be counted in immigration figures. The UK's main competitors in the international education industry such as the US, Australia and Canada do not count international students as immigrants.

While the Government has so far refused to remove international students from the figures and the UCAS report is only likely to strengthen that resolve, a fresh group of politicians has written to the Government to urge the prime minister to reconsider.

Five select committee chairmen have written to David Cameron urging for 'further action to encourage university students to study in the UK'.

"Doing so has the potential to support economic growth in the immediate and longer term, supporting jobs in university towns and increasing export earnings," reads the letter.

"International students who study in the UK also build relationships which last over time, laying the foundations for future business opportunities in emerging economies, and supporting our foreign policy objectives."

The UK Visa Bureau is an independent immigration consultancy specialising in helping people prepare for their UK Ancestry Visa application.