From education to employment

Potential plans to cut international student numbers

Students walking holding books

The UK government explores plans to restrict admissions from international students to top institutions in an attempt to cut immigration.

However, according to research from the Higher Education Policy Institute, in conjunction with Universities UK, international students make a net positive contribution of more than £25.9 billion to the UK’s economy, with every part of the UK financially better off – on average by £390 per person – because of international students.

Sector Response

Vivienne Stern MBE, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said:

“Cutting international student numbers would run directly counter to the government’s strategy to rebuild the economy – given the huge financial contribution they make to every part of the country.

“International students make a net positive contribution of at least £26 billion per year to the UK economy and are the source of almost 70% of our education export earnings. They sustain jobs in towns and cities up and down the country. They also bring enormous benefits to university campuses. The financial contribution they make has been essential, given the long term decline in funding for teaching UK undergraduate students, and balancing the books on research.  

“Limiting international students would be an act of economic self-harm that would damage many parts of the country the government aims to make more prosperous.

“We should be proud that UK universities are held in such high esteem around the world that we are one of the most popular places to study. Instead of doing down a great strength of the UK, government should support it. We need a long term, stable policy approach in international visas, which is tough on abuse but supports long term, managed growth.”

Antony Painter, Policy Director at the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), said:

“One of the key advantages for people studying management in UK universities is the chance to learn alongside people from around the world. This is how they gain insight into the opportunities for growth beyond our borders. 

“Being part of an international community of business leaders and managers is a key ingredient for the UK as we renew our focus on building strong global partnerships.

“By giving the best and brightest students from around the world the chance to study and then work in the UK for a time after they graduate ensures that their talents benefit – and help to grow – the UK economy.”

Nehaal Bajwa, NUS Vice President Liberation and Equality; Ellie Gomersall, NUS Scotland President; Orla Tarn, NUS Wales President; Chloe Ferguson, NUS-USI President.

“International students are our friends and colleagues, and benefit our lives at universities, colleges, in workplaces and communities across the UK beyond measure. The government is treating that rich diversity of experience and humanity like a number on a spreadsheet.

This is hugely cruel to those students, who have taken the brave step of travelling to pursue their education and sometimes moving their families across the world.

This move would be grounded in hypocrisy- the government starves the education sector of funding and forgoes concern for international students and migrant staff. This has encouraged and legitimised institutional strategy to exploit international students as cash cows through astronomical fees and violent visa regimes.

Against the backdrop of the UK skills shortage, it is laughable that the government would be actively preventing international students from studying here.”

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