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India and Nigeria driving surge in UK visa grants this year

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • UK visa grants to foreign students have spiked this year, for overall growth of +71% between June 2019 and June 2022
  • Much of that volume results from significant increases in the number of visas granted to students from India, Nigeria, and Pakistan
  • Grants to Chinese students, meanwhile, declined slightly over the same period

The UK’s Home Office is reporting a record number of study visas granted for the fiscal year ending June 2022.

The UK granted nearly 487,000 sponsored student visas in the 12 months leading up to June, which represents a 71% increase from 2019, the last full fiscal year before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Total visa grants this year are certainly bolstered by visas issued to EEA and Swiss nationals, a new requirement that arises from the UK’s departure from the EU in early 2021. But the Home Office reports that EEA and Swiss students account for only about 5% of the total study visas granted this year.

Sponsored study visa grants, year ending June 2013 to year ending June 2022. Source: UK Home Office

Major growth drivers

The big news this year is that India has surpassed China – for the first time since 2011 – as the leading sender of foreign students for the UK. The total number of visas granted to Indian students grew by more than 200% between June 2019 and June 2022.

As we see in the table below, other notable growth markets include Nigeria (+686% over the same period) and Pakistan (+377%). Following a pattern we have observed for other major destinations, grants to Chinese students actually declined between June 2019 and June 2022.

Top five nationalities granted sponsored study visas, year ending June 2019 compared to year ending June 2022. Source: UK Home Office

A significant majority of visas (90%) were granted for higher education studies with the balance distributed as follows:

  • Independent schools (4%)
  • Further education (3%)
  • English language schools (2%)
  • Other (1%)

For additional background, please see:

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