Students to the UK

Following on from my earlier blog on net migration, the UK Government’s policy of reducing net migration from “hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands” is not only having a knock on effect on businesses but also on students. Students form the largest group of visa applications and therefore a significant reduction in their numbers will aid the aim of achieving the “tens of thousands” figure promoted as Conservative policy. But at what cost?

It was reported that more than half of overseas students in the UK say they have felt “less than welcome” to the UK because of the UK government’s policies on migration.  Many university advocates have said that the “negative rhetoric” from the UK is deterring students from apply to UK Universities.

Recent visa regulations mean that students face tougher questions about their UK destination, limits on their ability to work and harder questions on their English language capability.  University leaders say that the UK Government’s recent greater immigration restrictions are  the decisive factor in the declining number of students applying to UK universities.  It is a competitive market out there. If a student gets the same offer from an overseas education establishment as from the UK, but the entry conditions are  easier, that might persuade the student to go there instead. Yes, the UK Government has just made changes to try to make the UK more attractive to international students by allowing them to take up corporate internships after completing their degree and making it easier for graduate entrepreneurs to take up skilled jobs. But I think these routes in are not going to help the many, only the few.

Boris Johnson has continually argued with Downing Street after his trip to India saying it was “crazy” that the UK should lose foreign students to the US or Australia.  In addition, he went to on state that the restrictive rules on students has a knock on effect on businesses if the “brightest and the best” tech and engineering students move to other English speaking countries to study or work.

So what are the benefits of students in the UK?

Recent studies have shown that students generate about £8 billion a year in tuition fees which could potentially increase to £17.5 billion by 2025 provided there are no further hurdles for foreign students to jump over when applying to UK Universities. Decreases in overseas student intake would lead to lower income and the possibility that the universities might need to ask the Government to fund the difference, which would not seem to make sense.

Student migration is an emotive topic

Student migration has always been a big topic of discussion amongst policy makers. They are the one of the biggest contributors to the economy and they allow many businesses to attract the “best and the brightest”.  Despite the negative comments from Universities and Boris Johnson, Home Office statistics highlight that between January 2013 – March 2013 there was compared with the prior year a 10% decrease in sponsored student visas, but a 5% increase with those applying for UK Universities.  However, the Home Office statistics highlight that visa applications from Indian and Pakistani students were down but were balanced by an increase in applications from Chinese students.   Vince Cable has commented that “a wrong message” has been communicated to students in India and Pakistan and that “overseas students make a huge contribution to Britain. They boost our economy, and enhance our cultural life, which is why there is no cap on the number of legitimate students who can study here”.  As such, the Business Secretary is quick to ensure that government’s International Education Strategy takes forward the message that “Education is Great” globally and capitalise on the UK’s excellent reputation for Education excellence and ensure a growth of 20% increase in student intake by 2018.