The number of Indian students going to the United Kingdom (UK) has seen a sharp decline for the second year in a row. According to a Higher Education Statistics Agency report released last month, 22,385 Indian students were enrolled in institutions of higher education in 2012-13 there.
This marks a 25% decline compared with the previous year when over 29,900 Indian students were enrolled. In 2010-11, this figure was more than 39,000.
Chinese students, who form the biggest non-European Union group, are steadily increasing in the UK, says the report, with approximately 83,800 Chinese there.
The US has also seen a 1% decline in Indian student enrolments in the last two years after a decade of consistant rise. However, it isn't as sharp as in the case of the UK. Over 2 lakh Indian students choose to study abroad every year. Of this, the US share is 50%. The UK comes second with 10%.
Many parents cite the Conservative Party-led UK government's abolishment of 'post-study-work visa' (PSW) a year ago and the proposal to impose bonds for visas on 'high-risk countries', including India (which was later scrapped), as the main factors behind this trend.
"Students want flexibility in job opportunities. The PSW visa abolishment was a major turn-off. Besides, the UK's proposed 3,000-pound bond for a visa was very much under consideration till late November last year, forcing us to change our plan," said a parent whose daughter opted for a Hong Kong institute for post-graduate education.
Overseas education experts, however, feel other European and Asian countries have been picking up quickly in the last two years, resulting in a drop in Indian students going to the UK or the US.
Consultant Natasha Chopra, managing director of The Chopras, which specialises in education abroad, says, "Indian students are much more quality-conscious now. They don't go to the UK or the US only for the sake of a foreign degree unless they get admission in a quality institute. Otherwise, they prefer to go to Germany, Sweden, Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, which have many top-ranking institutes."
These countries, along with Canada and New Zealand, are also marketing aggressively in India. Skewed employment opportunities in Europe and the US and higher currency exchange rate also affected the plans of many Indian students.
Box: Non-EU overseas students decline in the UK
After a steady increase for many years, overseas students in the UK have declined for the first time by 1% (3,02,000 to 2,99,000) within a year, says the report. Apart from India, the enrolment of Pakistani students in the UK has also drastically declined for the second year in a row. From 10,185 in 2010-11, it dropped to 8,820 in 2011-12 and then to 7,185 at present.
Box: Indian students enrolled in UK higher education institutes
(Source: Higher Education Statistics Agency; 2014 report)