Four in 10 students from India and Pakistan ‘not likely’ to change study plans in UK

A survey of students in India and Pakistan by the British Council offers more positive news for UK HE

Around four in 10 students in India and Pakistan who have applied to study in the UK say they are “not at all likely” to change their plans because of the coronavirus crisis.

A British Council survey of nearly 1,500 prospective applicants in India and Pakistan suggests a significant number who had already applied to an institution in the UK do not intend to change their plans, despite warnings that international student numbers could plummet as a result of the Covid-19 shutdown.

A total of 43% of respondents in India and 39% of respondents in Pakistan said they were “not at all likely” to cancel their studies – 14% and 13% respectively said a chance was “neither likely, nor unlikely”.

The survey suggests that perhaps a half of international students from the two countries still anticipate that they will be able to study in the UK in 2020/21. Last year there were 32,835 international students studying in the UK from India and Pakistan.

Only 39% of students in India and 28% of students in Pakistan surveyed by the British Council had already applied to UK universities, compared to 72% in China. The British Council said there was a trend of students from the two south Asian countries applying later in the academic year, which suggests there is considerable room for these figures to change in the next few months.

Four in 10 students from India and Pakistan 'not likely' to change study plans in UK Rishabh Mathur
The proportion of students who have not applied yet is still high as a proportion, which suggests there is room for these figures to change in the next few months (credit Rishabh Mathur via Flickr)

According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa), there were 26,685 Indian students and 6,150 Pakistani students enrolled at UK higher education providers in 2018/19.

Student numbers from India have recovered slightly after years of decline between 2010 and 2016 when first-year enrolments plummeted from 23,960 to 9,090.

On top of that figure, 35,845 students in Pakistan and 16,550 students in India studied for a UK higher education qualification wholly overseas last year – university leaders hope these transnational enrolment figures are more resilient to the impacts of the lockdown because most students do not need to leave their country of residence.

A similar survey conducted on behalf of the British Council in China revealed that 40% were undecided about whether to cancel their studies in the UK from September, with only 12% reporting they were still most likely to take up their place as planned. Some experts have warned that the UK higher education sector could lose more than £1.5 billion as a result of a dip in international recruitment.

Student enrolments from China have rocketed in the past few years. The number of first-year students has risen from 25,135 in 2006/07 to 86,485 in 2018/19. Last year a total of 120,385 Chinese students were studying in the UK.

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