A study recently released by Universities UK claims that the Coalition Government’s clamp-down on UK student visas could cause significant long-term damage. The could also be additional costs of £2.4 billion over the next decade.
Universities UK makes the case that tougher visa restrictions will see potential students choose other study destinations over the UK. Demand has risen for both the USA and Canada. There is a potential for the UK to loose out in more than £350 million per year in lost revenue from international students.
“Such a change would not be easily reversed and, as seen in other higher education systems, the effects can endure across several academic years,” the group says in its annual report, published on Wednesday.
The research is well grounded, citing the experiences of Australia following a tightening of their student visa rules. The real value of revenue in the Australian higher education sector dropped 5% between 2010 – 2011.
“This could put the UK’s strong position within the global education market at risk and lead to a reduction in exports to the value of £2.4bn across the entire [UK] education sector between 2012-13 and 2024-25,” the report concludes.
The clamp-down on UK student visas began in 2011 and a key desire was to make visas harder to get for international students studying multiyear courses.
A higher standard of English was required, as well as credibility interviews introduced in 2013. Around 100,000 interviews are planned to be carried out in the first year of the scheme.
The Home Office has already reported that the number of international students apply to study outside the higher education sector have fallen significantly. This suggests that the total loss to the UK across the whole education sector – in lost fees and wider spending in the economy – is probably even worse than currently predicted.
UK Immigration Minister Mark Harper said: “Last week’s Ucas statistics show applications from international students are up 5.5% compared to this time last year, and latest figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show the total number of non-EU students at our universities continues to rise.”
“However, Universities UK continue to criticise the government policies it initially supported. The UK remains open for business to the brightest and best international students: there is no limit on the number of international students who can come here and graduates can stay and work in the UK if they get a graduate level job.”
India, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia – once key markets for the UK – recorded the largest drops in numbers of international students coming to study in the UK.
Students from Saudi Arabia dropped 31% in the year 2011 – 2012, and Saudi student enrolment at US universities rose 50% over the same period.
The report as looked at the rising cost of fees for UK home students. “This is bad news for fair access – you’re more likely to be studying part-time or be a mature student of over 21 if you’re from a disadvantaged background,” said Les Ebdon, the director of Fair Access to Higher Education.