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The number of Indian students opting United Kingdom (UK) for higher studies has increased for the first time in years, the figures released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) revealed.

Once, the figure stood at 39,090 in 2010-11 but due to multiple reasons like the UK government changing rules resulted in this number coming down to 16,550 in 2016-17. However, in recent years the number has been on rising: 19,750 in 2017-18, which includes first-year students.

The numbers by the HESA show that the United Kingdom is still not the preferred education destination for Indian students but the perception could be changing slowly in recent times.

Notably, Indian and other non-European Union (EU) students have to pay more than three times the fees applicable to UK or EU students which contributes billions of pounds in the UK economy by the overseas students.

Further, English daily Hindustan Times reported the highest number of students came from China than any other country. In the year 2017-18, one in every three non-EU students were from China: 106,530.

"Student numbers from India declined from 39,090 in 2010/11 to 16,550 in 2016/17. In 2017/18, for the first time, this rose to 19,750, the same level it had been at in 2013/14," HESA said.

"Immigration statistics published by the Home Office in November 2018, which compare the year ending September 2018 with the year ending September 2017, also noted a rise in sponsored study visas granted to Indian nationals (up 33% to 18,735)," it added. The postgraduate level was the most preferred choice of the Indian students among all.

In contrast, the vocational courses witnessed the largest drop in the incoming Indian students due to the closure of several bogus colleges which were recruiting non-EU students for the non-academic purpose.

The closure of the post-study work visa in 2012 was the biggest impediment for Indian students who stayed away from the UK in recent times. However, there has been some ease in restriction but the post-study work visa is unlikely to be introduced in near future.