Bad data used in British Council’s Inside India report: Enrolment and Fresh Student Statistics has been used interchangeably. Should I just say LOL!

The higher education supplements around the world are reporting the Inside India report of British Council. The basic statistics quoted in the report is incorrect and so the summaries reported are incorrect too… And British Council would want you to buy that report.

Before I come to why I am saying that the report uses bad data, lets see how it has been lapped up around the world this day.


The report ‘Inside India – A new status quo’ says demand from Indian students for British universities dropped by 23 per cent between 2012-13 and by 4 per cent in the US.

However, demand for Australian places increased by 36 per cent during the same period despite Australia being the destination with the highest living costs.

“The recent increase in students studying in Australia has happened when the currency valuation makes living costs very expensive. However, work opportunities seem to have mitigated the effect of high costs of living and the negative sentiment created in 2009-10,” the report says.

 Inside Higher Ed reports from US in A NEW STATUS QUO ?

While the U.K. and U.S. are the top two destinations of choice, students are increasingly applying to universities in Canada and Germany, where they perceive education to be cheaper and employment opportunities to be robust. Canada stands out in terms of perceived opportunities for permanent migration, while students see Germany as offering world-class opportunities in the automotive, engineering, and manufacturing industries. The number of Indian students in Australia, meanwhile, appears to be rebounding after a precipitous fall following a series of violent attacks on Indian students in 2009.

Now let me show the bad data used in the report…

The report quotes the following data for its analysis and for the comments made by the above articles:

2008-9 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 Most recent year percent change
U.S. 103,260 104,897 103,895 100,270 96,754 -4
U.K. 36,105 40,470 40,890 31,595 -23
Australia 11,266 5,672 4,817 5,699 7,770 36
Germany 3,236 3,821 4,825 5,745 19
Canada 9,516 17,549 23,601 28,929 23


  • The data above is used the enrolment statistics and fresh student visa grants statistics interchangeably.
  • The enrolment statistics are the number of students of one nationality at that time in that country. So when we say that there are 96,754 Indians enrolled in US during 2013, it means that there are 96,754 Indian nationals on F1 visa in 2013 and this includes students who may have entered US in the preceding years and still enrolled at the Universities. IT IS NOT THE NUMBER OF INDIAN STUDENTS WHO ENTERED USA. The same applies to the numbers shown for UK and Canada.
  • However, the report has provided the Australian numbers of the total student visa granted during the year to Indian students. It is not a cumulative data at all. The enrolment data is much higher.
  • Enrolment and Student Visa grants are not interchangeable.

I can understand journalists falling for it but not British Council. And then they want you to pay for this report using incorrect data.

Further a calculation based on enrolments have been found to be faulty. The duration of programs vary and it is known that a student in US tends to remain a student for a longer period of time. In UK, Masters are for only 1 year and so the Masters students in UK do not get counted for multiple years as in other places. When there is a sharp fall in student numbers, enrolment statistics can hide the fall and give a wrong impression. And wrong strategy and wrong impressions. Sometimes the use of enrolment statistics are with an intent to put a spin to falling student interest for a destination.

If you want to have the actual student trends INSIDE INDIA, you simply have to google and you will find the following…

Screen Shot 2013-05-26 at 10.12.57 AMScreen Shot 2013-05-26 at 9.56.51 AM

It featured in my blog on 26th of May itself…

and the following followup reports including news items from newspapers that cross-checked the data and then reported…

However, the other conclusion that the the earlier projection of unabated growth from India was wrong seems to have been inspired by what I wrote too in my blog where I demonstrated that the total number of students going overseas from India to the big five destinations is actually declining and not increasing…

Screen Shot 2013-05-26 at 10.12.22 AM

For this conclusion, my free blog would take you to the same as the priced British Council report. The reasons for this declining interest can also be found on the links on those said blogs and they are possibly more comprehensive.

British Council, you have disappointed with the kind of research that has been put in… Can expect others to make this error… not you… Please do not compare apples with oranges…



  1. Hi Ravi, I wonder who is British Council cooked up these figures to feed the public. I wonder if it was an Indian Curry recipe or a British Fish and Chips!


    1. Ha Ha Ha… Victor, you are a British Council insider and so your comment here means a lot. After giving close to two decades of your life there you would know the kind of work that BC put out and how diligent the research used to be. I am very disappointed being a BC well-wisher that they can mix up a very basic stat and compare apples with oranges…


  2. There is an awful lot of statistical illiteracy out there, especially within the industry.

    Common in Australia, like in real estate data, to inflate the headline student statistics for a better headline, and also may support commercial interests suggesting high future earnings (and the anti immigration lobby to alarm people)?

    Most international education industry groups in Australia, and commercial side, use year on year data, as opposed baseline from peak several years ago, because still down significantly…..


    1. I agree but the fact that British Council can mix up a very basic data and then build arguments that can harm several strategists… is what bothered me. I know that IIE with takes out the Open Doors data for US numbers also puts a spin on the figures and that leads several journalists to report the enrolment statistics as the number of students entering US that year… Historically we have seen severe fall in student numbers in reality though the enrolment numbers have continued to be healthy. Look at the data for US for 2000-2003. 9/11 led to a sharp reduction in grants of visas and also interest of some students but enrolment stats for that period will not indicate that at all. Similarly in 2009-10, the actual student numbers entering Australia fell significantly but the enrolment statistics being a cumulative data did not indicate such a fall. For UK, similarly the actual numbers has been falling significantly over the last two years but the enrolments hide the reality to an extent…


      1. Dear Ravi, many thanks for your observations about the data used in our latest report. When looking at US, UK, Australian, German and Canadian higher education statistics there are a number of caveats that must be offered as the data collection methodology, classification of an international student used, measurement of academic year and date of issue and from each national agency vary a great deal. These statistics were used to show and compare macro trends in numbers of Indian students in these markets, as they are the best and in many cases only data available.


  3. Thanks Ravi for raising this issue of misleading data. One would not expect British Council, a highly respected organisation to commit such a blunder. on the other hand it is very difficult for a common man to conclude or reach a decision when the basic information on which the decision has to be based is incorrect.


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