Overall international student numbers rise amid a sharp fall in Nigerian students

Overall international student numbers rise amid a sharp fall in Nigerian students

Overall international student numbers for the September 2023 intake have increased year-on-year, with the number of students issued with a CAS rising by 4.38%.

The number of students with a CAS from the largest overseas market, India, has remained relatively stable, dropping slightly by 1.43% when compared to 2022. 

Nigeria has experienced a considerable drop in numbers: down 21.42% when compared to September 2022, after currency turmoil in the country over this summer.

The overall increase in the number of CAS issued can be attributed to strong growth in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal.

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Despite policy changes that will restrict student dependants in January 2024, the number of international students reporting dependants has dropped from 10.97% in September 2022 to 8.47% in September 2023.

There continues to be a strong reliance on agent-recruited students in the sector, representing 71.25% of all international students meeting the CAS/visa issued milestone.

The CAS-to-visa refusal rate has quadrupled year-on-year, increasing from 0.15% last year to 0.60% this September.

About the data 

The data for the report is based on a sample of 296,529 student offers across a large cross-section of Enroly’s partner institutions for the September 2023 intake.

The anonymised sample data includes a mixture of Russell Group institutions, recruiting universities, and private sector pathway providers, and is correct as of 2 October 2023.

The industry ECG

The Enroly platform has such a large segment of users that student and staff platform usage reveals the heartbeat of the industry. The graphs below demonstrate the peaks and troughs of activity over the course of the year.

Student platform use
Student platform use in the year, peaking at 100,000+ daily student users on 1 August 2023.
Staff & agent platform use
Staff & agent platform use in the year, peaking at 8,000+ daily users on 23 August 2023.

Overall student numbers

table showing that deposit payments are up 4.19% year-on-year and that CAS issued is up 4.38% year on year

International student numbers are up overall for September 2023, with CAS issued growing by 4.38% year on year across all markets. 

Following our earlier report that CAS numbers were up by 11.36% year-on-year at that point back in early August, this indicates that universities have also processed CAS earlier in the intake when compared to 2022.

Numbers by market

There is a slight fall in the numbers of Indian students with a CAS/visa when compared to September 2022, down by 1.43% for the intake. But the big story in terms of dropping numbers is Nigeria, with CAS and visa issued down by 21.42%. 

A significant year-on-year fall in Bangladeshi students is also notable, amid UKVI concerns and anecdotal evidence of some UK universities pulling out of the market.

The big winners from the intake at a market level are Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Iran.


The heatmap shows Indian students with a CAS and/or visa issued coming to the UK, with clear concentrations of students from Punjab and Kerala.

a heat map of Ndia showing the concentrations of international tudents

The table below outlines the proportion of students coming to the UK from the top 10 Indian states by overall proportion of Indian students. 

It is notable that despite their relatively small size, Punjab and Kerala are nevertheless responsible for sending a considerable proportion of the overall total of Indian students, with more than 35% residing in these two states.


The heatmap shows Nigerian students with a CAS and/or visa issued coming to the UK, most concentrated in Lagos and Abuja.

View the table below to review Nigerian student numbers by state for the September 2023 intake.


The heatmap shows the geographical concentrations of Pakistani students with a CAS and/or visa issued coming to the UK.

View the table below for the data on the proportion of Pakistani students traveling to the UK from each province.


The number of students declaring dependants has dropped year-on-year but is still significantly higher than in 2021.

The sector had been bracing itself for a potential surge in international student dependant numbers following the announcement in May of incoming restrictions in January 2024.

In this context, then, a potential explanation for the drop in the rate of students declaring dependants in September 2023 is accounted for by the reduction in Nigerian students overall this intake, as Nigerian students brought considerably more dependants than any other nationality in 2022. This was following steep falls in the valuation of the naira in June.

Of that reduced number of students, as per the table above, the percentage of Nigerian students declaring they are bringing dependants has also dropped significantly when compared to other nationalities.

CAS-to-visa turnaround times

CAS to visa turnaround is much faster year-on-year, down from an average of 35.7 calendar days for September 2022 to an average of 28.5 calendar days in 2023.

There are large variations by country, with Nepal showing the fastest visa turnaround time at 23.9 days, and Canada almost double that at 43.5 days.


Dependency on agents remains high in the industry, with agent-recruited students representing 57.64% of all students.

A clear problem of direct student attrition also emerges, as the percentage of agent recruited students rises to 71.25% of all students with a CAS/visa issued.

The table below shows the impact of agent versus direct students from payment to CAS.

On the agent diversity front, the top agent accounts for 9.85% of all international students with a CAS/Visa Issued, with 25.22% of all students from the top 5 agents, and 33% from the top 10.

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