From education to employment

Sector Response to the statement from the Home Secretary

Students walking holding books

Jamie Arrowsmith, Director of Universities UK International, in response to the written ministerial statement issued a short time ago by the Home Office.

“International students make an invaluable contribution to our universities and to the UK’s economy. Building on the government’s explicit commitments and ambitions, which were clearly set out in the International Education Strategy, we have seen significant growth since 2019. Our research shows that international students make a huge economic contribution to the UK, with a single cohort delivering a total benefit of £41.9 billion. We also know that the public are overwhelmingly supportive of the international students we attract – just 9% of people think we should be discouraging international students from choosing the UK.

 “Today’s announcement provides some clarity for students and universities after many months of rumour and speculation; but leaves some questions unanswered. The government has reaffirmed its commitment to sustainable growth and to the ambitions set out in the International Education Strategy. Confirmation that the Graduate route will remain open and competitive is critically important, as it means international students can remain in the UK and work for up to two or three years after completing their studies, gaining experience and helping to address critical skills shortages.

“The rise in the number of dependent visas has been substantial and has likely exceeded planning assumptions in government. We recognise that, in some places, this has led to local challenges around access to suitable family accommodation and schooling, with implications for the student experience. Given this, some targeted measures to mitigate this rise may be reasonable, for example looking at eligibility for particular types of course (such as one-year taught postgraduate programmes) or enhancing the financial assurances that prospective students are required to provide.

“While the vast majority of students will be unaffected by proposals that limit the ability to be accompanied by dependents, more information is needed on the programmes that are in scope before a proper assessment of the impact can be made. Yet we do know that any changes are likely to have a disproportionate impact on women and students from certain countries. We therefore urge the government to work with the sector to limit and monitor the impact on particular groups of students – and on universities, which are already under serious financial pressures. The review process that has been announced must consider these issues.

“Ultimately, our collective aim must be to ensure that international students who choose the UK can be confident that they are welcome here, that their contribution is valued, and that the terms on which they have made decisions remain stable. Anything that threatens to affect the UK’s global success as a top destination for international talent needs to be considered very carefully.”

University and College Union general secretary Jo Grady said: 

‘Today’s announcement that international students will be prevented from being joined in the UK by their family members is a vindictive move from a government captured by anti-immigration sentiment.

‘Those who choose to study in the UK, no matter where they are from in the world, bring huge value to our society and deserve the right to live alongside their loved ones whilst they study. Instead, they are being treated with contempt.

‘It is clear that deep concern is already being felt across the sector as to just how damaging the package of measures announced by the Home Secretary could be to the pipeline of international talent coming to the UK.

‘This is another deeply shameful moment for a government hell-bent on attacking migrants and undermining our universities. ‘

Related Articles