Report: International Student Restrictions in UK Could Lead to Closures, Job Losses

United Kingdom Europe International Studies Higher Education News by Erudera News May 21, 2024

student in an empty classroom

Any further restrictions on international student numbers in the United Kingdom could lead to a collapse at some universities, according to a government-commissioned report.

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) report released last week revealed a 63 percent drop in the number of international students in postgraduate courses this September compared to a year earlier before restrictions, reports.

According to the same, continuing to restrict the graduate route, which permits international students to work in the United Kingdom for up to two years after completing their studies, or three years for PhD students, would lead to course closures and job losses. The report also highlighted the risk that some universities “would fail.”

Last summer, the UK government announced some new rules affecting international students. These rules include removing students’ ability to switch to a work route until they have completed their courses and removing their right to bring dependents (family, children, and partners) unless they take postgraduate courses.

Restrictions went into effect on January 1, 2024, to curb migration and end abuse of the immigration system. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) data showed that net migration reached 672,000 between June 2022 and June 2023.

Over the past year until September, UK authorities issued 152,980 visas to students' dependents, a 930 percent increase from the same month in 2019.

“Yesterday, a major part of that plan came into effect, ending the unreasonable practice of overseas students bringing their family members to the UK. This will see migration falling rapidly by the tens of thousands and contribute to our overall strategy to prevent 300,000 people from coming to the UK,” Home Secretary James Cleverly had said while announcing the package of measures.

However, in a letter to the Home Secretary, MAC Chair Brian Bell said that while data indicate the rules in effect have already shown results in reducing international student numbers, their impact should be assessed before further amendments are made.

“Given international student fees help make up the financial deficit that universities have from teaching domestic students and research, any significant restrictions to the route should only be considered once the structural funding issues in the higher education sector have been addressed,” the letter said.

In their review of the graduate route, MAC recommends retaining the current work rights for international students.

Data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) reveal the number of international students in the UK totaled 679,970 in the 2021/2022 academic year. Meanwhile, new findings from the Centre for Migration Control (CMC) say that UK universities enrolled a record number of international students in the 2022/23 academic year, surpassing 700,000.

© Philippe Bout | Unsplash

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