The UK government’s announcement on September 11 of the re-introduction of the post-study work visa for international students was a welcome piece of news and one with immediate impact. Two weeks post-announcement you can already see the following from our data.
– A significant spike of interest from Indian students
– Postgraduate interest increasing
– A major spike in postgraduate interest from Indian students
Although the new “graduate route” won’t come into operation for students starting until 2020-21, previous policy announcements have often had an immediate impact on the online search activity of prospective international students.
Given the volume of traffic across the suite of Hotcourses International websites, which receive around 1.5 million users a week globally, we wanted to share an initial snapshot of the data to show if the announcement had any impact on demand for study in the UK.
TWO WEEKS BEFORE AND AFTER THE VISA ANNOUNCEMENT – THE BIG MOVERS
Our data, shown below, compares the demand to the UK from a basket of countries for the two weeks before and after the announcement.
It is striking that on September 11 itself there is a noticeable and significant spike particularly from India (in orange) but also from prospective students in Nigeria (in yellow). The change in demand from India is noteworthy for three reasons.
Firstly, because of the size of the increase, which moves from about 1000 searches a day to about 2500, an increase of about 150%. Secondly, because the demand from India continues to be sustained once the announcement has been made, setting a new bar for daily interest from India. Thirdly, because India was the country hardest hit when the post-study work visa was removed back in 2012. It makes the early signs that India is the country where the recovery in interest is most prominent more understandable.
The increase from Nigeria (in yellow) is interesting and striking in the two days immediately after the announcement, but then recedes a little. It appears to settle at a rate, which is still noticeably higher than the period before September 11, moving from about 200 users a day to about 400 users a day. This is still an increase of 100%.
Commenting on the initial data, Vivienne Stern, Director of Universities UK International said: “It is hugely welcome to see that the announcement has already seen a significant increase for prospective students looking to study in the United Kingdom. The increase from India is particularly striking, and it will be important to continue to monitor over the coming weeks and months.”
Postgraduate students show the most enthusiasm towards the announcement. Postgraduate searches increased sharply on September 11 and have stayed elevated. The day before the announcement about 6000 postgraduate students were looking at UK sites, compared with two weeks later when the number was more than 7000.
Postgraduate study is an area of significant interest in India and our data shows Indian students accounted for a large number of the postgraduate interest. The day before the announcement, 949 Indian students were searching for postgraduate courses on UK Sites. On September 11 this number had jumped by more than 1000 and two weeks later it sat at more than 2000, a significant increase.
SUBJECT DEMAND FROM INDIAN STUDENTS
Our data shows the most significant increase in interest appears to come from Indian students looking to study subjects in the field of health and medicine (light blue). Searches increased from about 380 users a day to about 750 users a day after the announcement, an increase of nearly 100%. Subjects in the field of health and medicine include a mix of courses, which can be anything from medicine, physiotherapy, dentistry, pharmacology, psychology and public health.
The other significant increase comes from engineering and technology (blue), which increases from about 150 per day to about 400 per day after the announcement. Other subjects saw increases, although slightly less pronounced, including applied and pure science (red), business (orange) and computing and mathematics (yellow).
The only subjects that stayed relatively the same in terms of Indian student interest included creative arts and design and social studies and communication, which saw natural increase and decrease across the two-week period.
NARROW SUBJECT DEMAND
Breaking down subject demand even more, computer science saw an immediate increase in interest and stayed elevated. Searches increased from about 390 students a day to about 465 two weeks post-announcement. Physiotherapy also saw an increase from about 100 students a day to 217 two weeks later. Psychology saw a slight increase in interest while dentistry and biology interest stayed almost the same. Medicine also shows an increase in interest, but due to course restrictions this does not necessarily reflect an increase in students.
We will be particularly interested to see whether the increase in demand from India and Nigeria can be sustained. It will also be interesting to see if interest from other countries increases as word gets back to them, particularly as we get closer to the date of implementation. The impact for universities and colleges specifically is crucial. We know institutions are already taking steps to consider how the reintroduction of the post-study work visa might influence and shape their internationalisation and recruitment strategy.
Bobby Mehta, Director of Global at the University of Portsmouth commented: “We are always reviewing and evaluating our approach to internationalisation and recruitment work. Clearly the PSW announcement is significant news for the UK sector and all universities will be waiting for more detailed guidance to be published from the Home Office in relation to how and exactly when the new route will be open, whilst considering what steps they need take to ensure they are prepared to meet the needs of their international students and partners from across the globe.”
If you are interested in finding out more about the trends from the post-study work announcement, or other insights in demand from prospective international students, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Aaron Porter is the Associate Director Policy & Engagement for IDP Connect.
You can follow him on Twitter @AaronPorter.