K M Enayet Hossain
25 December, 2021

5.5 min read

Guide

UK student visa 2021: top countries with record number of visas

UK granted record number of study visa in the year ending 2021, 39% higher than the previous record and an increase of 143% more visas than it was in 2020.

In the year ending September 2021, UK granted 428,428 sponsored study visas (to both main applicants and their dependants). This is the highest annual number of Sponsored study visas granted on record, 39% higher than the previous record of 307,394 which occurred in the year ending June 2010.

 

Figure 1: UK student visa granted in 2019, 2020, 2021

Year Number of visa granted
2019 276,351
2020 176,101
2021 428,428


Source: Home Office

 

 

Figure 1 shows that in 2021, UK issued 252,327 more student visa than 2020, an increase of 143% and 152,077 more student visa than 2019, an increase of 55%. The decrease in numbers by 100,250 (-36%) in 2020 was due to COVID-19.

Of the 428,428 study visa issued in 2021, only 9% (20,775 in total) visa was issued to EU nationals while 91% visa was issued to non-EU international students. There had been significant growth from key markets in Asia and Africa.

 

The vast majority of visas (91%) were for study at Higher Education Institutions (HEI) i.e. Universities, with the total divided among:

Higher Education Institutions : 91%
Independent Schools : 4%
Further Education : 3%
English Language Schools : 2%
Other : <1%
 

 

Countries that were granted record number of UK study visas

 

Bangladesh: an increase of 410% study visa
Bangladesh saw the highest increase (410%) in percentage of study visa for UK in 2021. A total of 10,090 visas were issued to Bangladeshi students in 2021 while it was 1,981 in 2019. Bangladesh is now the 6th largest source of students for higher studies in the UK.

 

Nigeria: an increase of 347% study visa
The 2nd highest increase (347%) in UK study visa percentage was for Nigeria. A total of 36,783 study visas were issued to Nigerian students in 2021 while it was 8,229 in 2020. In 2021 Nigeria ranked 3rd among countries that are sending students to UK for higher studies.

 

Pakistan: an increase of 270% study visa
The increase of visa percentage of Pakistani students for UK higher study was the 3rd highest (270%) among all countries while Pakistan became the 5th largest country to send students to UK for higher education.

 

China: an increase of 157% study visa
The increase of visa percentage for Chinese students was 157%, the 4th highest though they ranked number 1 in terms of total number of students. Despite sending fewer students in 2020 than students in 2019 due to COIVI-19, China remained the largest source country for students coming to study in the UK.

 

India: an increase of 102% study visa
The increase of study visa percentage for Indian students in 2021 was 102%, the 5th highest while in terms of total number of students India was the 2nd largest country to send students for higher studies in the UK. India is the most consistent country from where increase of number students for UK higher study has seen sustainable growth as expected.

 

USA: an increase of 77% study visa
Though the number of students decreased from USA for UK higher studies in 2020 due to COVID-19, 2021 saw an increase of 77% students from the market while total number of students from USA was 15,330 making it 4th largest country to send students to UK for higher education.

 

Other nationalities: an increase of 135% study visa
UK enjoyed a 135% increase of study visa for international students from other countries in 2021. This is significant as the increase is a reflection of UK’s increased popularity as a higher education destination in the global arena. During COVID-19 and post-Brexit, UK was able to sustain growth from other markets which had been a tremendous achievement for UK higher education.

 

Figure 2: Top five nationalities’ granted sponsored study visas, for the years ending September 2019, September 2020, and September 2021

No

Nationality

Y/E Sep 2019

Y/E Sep 2020

Y/E Sep 2021

Change in % 2019-2021

Change in % 2020-2021

1

China

119,594

52,698

135,457

+13%

+157%

2

India

30,496

44,992

90,669

+197%

+102%

3

Nigeria

7,860

8,229

36,783

+368%

+347%

4

USA

14,948

8,638

15,330

+3%

+77%

5

Pakistan

4,570

4,015

14,845

+225%

+270%

6

Other

98,883

57,529

135,344

+37%

+135%

Total

276,351

176,101

428,428

+55%

+143%

 

Source: Home Office

 

Figure 2 shows that during 2019 to 2021, UK saw an increase of 55% study visas and during 2020 to 202, UK saw an increase of 143% study visas for all countries that sent international students to the UK. The numbers and percentage prove that the UK is continuing to gain in popularity overwhelmingly in non-EU markets.

The statistics also reveals that Chinese and Indian nationals together comprise more than half (53%) of all Sponsored study grants while Nigeria is potentially going to be a major stakeholder of UK study visa in near future.

In the top 5 nationalities, Nigerian nationals saw the largest relative increase in study visa grants compared with the year ending September 2019, increasing by 28,923 (+368%) to a record high of 36,783, making them the third largest nationality for UK higher study in 2021. This is vital for Nigerian students as for them Canada granted a mere 17.6% study permits in 2019, rising marginally to 18% in 2020 (Source: Applyboard) and there have been allegations of bias over low Canadian study permits approval rates for Nigerian and other African nationals (The Pie News). For the year ending March 2021, for Nigerian nationals UK study visa success rate was 94.93% and only 4.93% applications were refused (Source: UK Visa Blog).

Pakistani nationals also saw a large increase across this period of 10,275 (+225%) and 10,830 (+270%) which is extremely significant for both Pakistan and the UK’s new international higher education strategy.

However, though not included in figure 2 above, the largest increase in UK study visa grant was for Bangladeshi nationals, an increase of 410% (10,090 visas in year ending 2021 compared with 1,981 visas in year ending 2019). This is very important as UK has regained the market share which was lost to Canada and Australia earlier.

 

 

Sponsored study visa in the year ending March 2021

In the year ending March 2021, UK granted 250,683 sponsored student visas, 47,576 (15.95%) fewer visas than the previous year due to COVID-19 pandemic. The overall UK sponsored study visa grant and refusal rate for the year ending 2021 was 96.5% and 3.27% respectively for all nationals.

Figure 3: UK sponsored student visa approval and refusal rate by countries in the year ending March 2021

No

Nationality

Success Rate

Refusal rate

1

China

99.74%

0.20%

2

India

90.88%

8.71%

3

Nigeria

94.93%

4.93%

4

Pakistan

95.90%

3.72%

5

Hong Kong

99.68%

0.21%

6

United States

99.22%

0.54%

7

Bangladesh

93.54%

6.14%

8

Saudi Arabia

96.50%

3.01%

9

Malaysia

99.67%

0.17%

10

Kuwait

99.80%

0.07%

11

South Korea

99.58%

0.15%

12

Canada

99.71%

0.25%

13

Russia

99.53%

0.33%

14

Taiwan

99.53%

0.32%

15

Turkey

98.99%

0.80%

16

Ghana

85.26%

14.47%

17

Egypt

97.99%

1.79%

18

Thailand

99.77%

0.06%

19

Indonesia

99.53%

0.36%

20

Japan

99.59%

0.12%

21

Other nationalities

96.86%

2.75%

Overall for all countries

96.50%

3.27%

 

Source: UK Visa Blog

 

 

Sponsored study visa for UK in 2020

The UK sponsored student visa success rate and refusal ratio in 2020 was 97.43% and 2.34%, respectively for all nationals that sent students to the UK.

Figure 4: UK sponsored student visa refusal rate by countries in 2020

No

Nationality

Refusal rate

1

China

0.18%

2

India

5.78%

3

Nigeria

3.83%

4

Hong Kong

0.19%

5

United States

0.41%

6

Pakistan

4.28%

7

Saudi Arabia

2.60%

8

Malaysia

0.17%

9

Bangladesh

5.14%

10

Kuwait

0.23%

11

South Korea

0.15%

12

Canada

0.17%

13

Russia

0.42%

14

Taiwan

0.27%

15

Turkey

0.85%

16

Thailand

0.06%

17

Japan

0.06%

18

Egypt

1.93%

19

Ghana

13.86%

20

Indonesia

0.31%

21

Other nationalities

2.37%

Overall for all countries

2.34%

 

Source: UK Visa Blog

 

 

The overall UK student visa including sponsored student visa and other student categories success rate and refusal rate in 2020 was 95.77% and 3.78% respectively.

Figure 5: UK study visa refusal rate in 2020 for all student categories

Type of student visa

Refusal rate

Sponsored study

2.34%

Student

2.57%

Child student

0.84%

Tier 4 child student

0.58%

Tier 4 general student

2.37%

Other study

16.76%

Short term study

16.77%

Students other

3.70%

Overall for all types

3.78%

 

Source: UK Visa Blog

 

The statistics and data for UK study visa granted for different nationals worldwide over past few years and the current year are highly encouraging and motivating for international students coming to study in the UK. UK has been very welcoming and showing extended willingness to grant as many visas as possible to qualified students from countries that are lagging behind, underrepresented in the UK higher education and require support to develop their nations with quality higher education. The strategies have opened golden doors for international students pursuing higher study in the UK. The positive move has also enabled UK to regain its lost share of international students to other competitor countries and gain lead over them to rank on the top for major higher education destinations.

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