Warnings of economic damage to UK as international student numbers fall by a third

University leaders accuse ministers of wanting to ‘diminish our success’ as figures show a plunge in visas issued to overseas students

Overseas student enrolments to UK universities have fallen, which could cause severe financial dislocation at many institutions. Photograph: Chris Ison/PA

Immigration restrictions imposed on international students threaten to damage the UK economy, according to university leaders, with the number enrolling from overseas falling by a third.

Universities UK (UUK), which represents mainstream universities and colleges, said the government’s new curbs, coupled with steep visa fee increases and threats to cut back on graduate work entitlements, are having a negative impact on the UK as a study destination.


Data from more than 60 UK universities shows that the number of study visas issued has fallen by 33% this year compared with the same time last year. A separate survey of 70 universities by UUK found that enrolments in postgraduate taught courses were down by more than 40% since January’s immigration changes.

Vivienne Stern, UUK’s chief executive, said: “I regret the fact the government appears to want to diminish our success in this area. Our new data shows that if they wanted to see a reduction in numbers, they have already achieved that through policy changes introduced earlier this year.

Jeff Williams, Enroly’s chief executive, said: “The downturn in January 2024 signals the impact of UK policy on recruitment volumes, underscoring the industry’s sensitivity to political and economic factors.”

More than 320,000 international students account for nearly half of enrolments on taught courses at UK universities, paying tuition fees averaging about £17,000 a year. A sudden fall in enrolments would make a wide range of courses uneconomic and cause severe financial dislocation at many institutions.

A new study commissioned by UUK found that the growth in international students since 2019 has delivered a £60bn boost to the entire UK’s economy.

The Department for Education said: “We are fully focused on striking the right balance between acting decisively to tackle net migration, which we are clear is far too high, and attracting the brightest students to study at our universities.”


Source: The Guardian

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