UK Study Visa numbers return to pre-pandemic levels!

UK Study Visa numbers return to pre-pandemic levels!

Latest data from the Home Office show recovery in the number of visas granted over autumn and winter

According to the latest figures, the number of visas granted to students to study in the UK has recovered to levels seen around a year before the start of the pandemic.

Immigration data published by the Home Office – which indicates students seeking to travel to the UK – show that more than 250,000 study visas were granted in the year to March 2021.

Although this was 16 percent less than the year before – the last 12-month period largely unaffected by the coronavirus crisis – it is about 10,000 above the level seen in the 12 months to March 2019.

It also represents a major recovery in the number of students gaining visas over the autumn and winter of 2020-21 to study in the UK.


When figures were released in November for the year to the end of September 2020, they showed that the number of visas granted had fallen by a huge 36 percent in a year, with those issued to Chinese students dropping by more than half.

This was mainly due to the visa application process largely grinding to a halt over the spring of 2020 due to the impact of the pandemic.

The latest figures indicate that many Chinese students may have sought to come to the UK later in the year as universities allowed different start times or made distance-learning arrangements for the first term.

Taken over the whole period, the number of visas granted to Chinese nationals was still 26 percent lower than in the year to March 2020, a drop of about 30,000, but not nearly as high as the drop recorded in the year to September.

Overall, Chinese students have made up almost two-thirds of the total fall in granted study visas over the past year, the figures show.

To mitigate this loss, UK universities appear to have attracted increased numbers from India, Pakistan, and, most noticeably, Nigeria, which saw an 83 percent increase in study visa grants.

It makes Nigeria the country with the third-highest number of study visas for the year to March 2021 (around 17,400). There was a 13 percent increase in the number of grants to Indian nationals (to around 56,000 visas) and a 52 percent rise for Pakistan (to almost 9,000) visas.

For the first time, the figures also show how many students from Europe have applied for visas since the UK’s immigration rules changed due to Brexit.

In the first three months of 2021, just 290 study visas were granted to students from the European Economic Area (mainly European Union countries) and Switzerland, making up only 1 percent of all study visas.

Although the low figure is likely to reflect the fact that most visa applications would be made later in the year ahead of courses starting in the autumn and the deterrent effect of the pandemic’s travel restrictions, it may cause some concern for universities seeking to attract EU students.

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