New Home Office data will let you watch international recruitment slump in near real-time (April update)

Though all eyes are on what happens this summer

Michael Salmon is News Editor at Wonkhe

The Home Office has brought forward the publication of its new monthly work and study visa application stats – if you don’t know what I’m talking about see here for the first instalment.

The point here was to get ahead of tomorrow’s big migration data drop – the headlines for the Home Office are that in the first four months of the year (comparing 2023 and 2024), skilled worker applications rose by 41 per cent and their dependants by 62 per cent, while health and care visa applications dropped by 76 per cent and student dependant applications (post PGT ban) dropped by 79 per cent.

Now the big policy policy change for skilled worker visas (the huge salary threshold increase) wasn’t in place until April. And this provisional data only tells us applications, and is potentially subject to revisions with the proper quarterly releases – we’ll get full statistics for January to March tomorrow.

Here’s what it looks like for students and dependants – remember, these are simply provisional visa applications stats, rounded to the nearest hundred.

Main applicant 202425,5003,7004,8009,60043,600
Main applicant 202326,9005,2007,8009,50049,400
Dependant 20243,4001,7001,6001,6008,300
Dependant 202317,5007,5007,9006,00038,900

So dependants are of course down, but for April at least this hasn’t translated into a corresponding fall in applications for student visas themselves.

But. As we pointed out last month, January to April is not prime international recruitment season, and applications are not conversions. For reference, last July to September there were 312,500 main applicant applications for student visas.

We know from a BUILA survey that was shared with the press last week (for which they have kindly shared additional data with Wonkhe) that the outlook for the September 2024 intake does not look positive.

For applications (based on a survey of 75 UK institutions, conducted at the start of May), 62 per cent of providers are reporting a decrease in international undergraduate applications compared to a year ago, and 88 per cent report that postgraduate taught applications are down. PGR applications did seem to be up, however.

And in terms of how this is translating through into deposits – with the caveat that it is still relatively early days, so it could simply be that there is more uncertainty this year leading to later decision-making – the picture is equally bleak. Here only 58 providers returned responses to BUILA – some 64 per cent said that UG deposits were down on last year, 83 per cent said so for PGT, and 37 per cent had seen a drop in PGR confirmations.

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