18 May 2012

UK visa restrictions to cost universities up to £8 billion

A coalition of Britain’s universities is writing to Prime Minister David Cameron to warn that tightened UK visa restrictions for international students will cost universities between £5 and 8 billion a year.

UK visa

Universities UK is writing to David Cameron over the cost UK visa restrictions will have due to falling numbers of international students

As part of their efforts to bring net migration down to the 'tens of thousands' before the end of the current parliament, the Government has restricted UK visa rights for international students.

Under the changes, international students are limited to how long they can remain in the UK, both studying and after graduating. How they can be employed while they're studying is also restricted and only overseas students enrolled on postgraduate courses that last more than a year are permitted to bring dependents into the country.

The Government maintains that there is significant abuse of the student visa system to justify its new restrictions but Universities UK, a group of executive heads of Britain's universities and colleges, claims the changes deter potential students from coming to the UK to study.

As non-EU students can be charged up to four times the amount a domestic student would pay for tuition, universities depend on international students as a major source of income and, with some universities already reporting a 40% decrease in overseas applications, some would say they have genuine cause for concern.

"There aren't that many income streams for universities to grow in the current economic climate," said Professor Eric Thomas, president of Universities UK and vice-chancellor of the University of Bristol. "A 40% drop is going to cause a university to respond pretty rapidly."

In a letter to Mr Cameron, Professor Thomas says Indian and Chinese students, the biggest contributors to the £5 billion earned from international students each year, view the UK as 'putting up barriers to entry'.

"The UK seems to be telling the world that it doesn't welcome international students," he added.

A report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) published this week accused the Government of 'gaming' migration statistics by including falling applications from international students in net migration figures.

The report urged the Government to remove student numbers from UK immigration figures like Australia, Canada and the US, the UK's main competitors in the international education industry, do; Professor Thomas has echoed this request:

"We are requesting that international university students should be removed from the net migration statistics for policy purposes, bringing us in line with our major competitors.

"We believe that this would help the Government by creating a clear differentiation between temporary and permanent migration, help universities whose international character is essential to their future success, and help the UK by contributing to economic growth."


The UK Visa Bureau is an independent immigration consultancy specialising in helping people prepare for their UK Ancestry Visa application.

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