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While the number of non-EU students went up by 1.5 per cent as a result of a 16.9 per cent rise in students coming from China, the overall number of non-EU students coming to Britain for postgraduate courses dropped for the first time in 16 years.
Immigration minister Mark Harper dismissed cause for concern.
"Our reforms have tackled abuse head on while favouring universities, to ensure we remain open to the brightest and the best. That's why it's no surprise that these figures, and our own visa statistics, show a continued increase in the number of foreign students coming to study at our world class universities. It's clear that our immigration changes are working with overall net migration to the UK falling by a
quarter in the past year," he said.
Overseas students are estimated to bring BP 8 billion a year into the British economy, a figure projected to rise to BP 16.8 billion by 2025, according to a study by the
Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Universities get 10 per cent of their total income and a third of their tuition fee revenue from non-EU students.
London mayor Boris Johnson had called on the government to remove students from immigration target figures and allow them to stay longer to work after their courses end during his tour of India last November.
The issue also features high on the agenda for an upcoming visit to the country by Prime Minister David Cameron, expected next month.