There are indications that many universities in the United Kingdom may witness a serious financial deficit as a result of a major decline in the admission of international students, following the announcement of a ban on bringing dependents into the country by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, effective January.
According to a report by BussinessDay, the Home Office of the United Kingdom announced that it had commenced the implementation of its policy, stopping Nigerian students as well as students from other nationals from bringing in dependents through the study visa route.
The Home Office made the announcement known on its X handle, reiterating that only those on postgraduate research or government-sponsored scholarship students will be exempted from the development.
“We are fully committed to seeing a decisive cut in migration. From today, new overseas students will no longer be able to bring family members to the UK. Postgraduate research or government-funded scholarships students will be exempt,” the Home Office said.
The changes, initiated by Suella Braverman, former home secretary, are aimed at curbing the misuse of student visas as a gateway to employment, projected to result in approximately 140,000 fewer individuals arriving in the UK.
According to a report by Financial Times on Friday, Vivienne Stern, the chief executive of Universities UK, who represents more than 140 universities, said the sector was facing the prospect of a “serious overcorrection” due to immigration policies that deterred international students from coming to study in Britain.
“If they want to cool things down, that’s one thing, but it seems to me that through a combination of rhetoric, which is off-putting, and policy changes . . .[they have] really turned a whole bunch of people off that would otherwise have come to the UK,” Stern told Financial Times.
A report by the Higher Education Policy Institute, showed that international students are worth £29 billion to the UK economy.
Stern made the plea as it emerged that some top universities, including York, which is a member of the elite Russell Group, were being forced to soften their entry requirements in order to maintain numbers of overseas students.
“The government needs to be very careful: we could end up with, from a policy point of view, what I would consider a serious overcorrection,” she added.
With the freezing of £9,250 domestic tuition fee for the past decade, UK universities have increasingly relied on non-EU students for sustainability, with fees from non-EU students now accounting for nearly 20 percent of the sector’s income.
According to a report by the Higher Education Policy Institute, it showed that international students are worth £29 billion to the UK economy.
Similarly, SBM Intelligence reported an analysis from London Economics on the economic impact of the international students that the UK took in for the 2018/19 session showed that the UK gained a net figure of £25.9 billion for the year in question with new Nigerian students alone arguably responsible for a net economic gain of £3,250,000,000.
Meanwhile, UK universities are warning privately that numbers have softened sharply this year following a series of hostile policy moves by the government, with indications that enrolments may have fallen by more than a third from key countries, including Nigeria and India.
A senior university insider revealed to the FT that the sector as a whole had been “spooked” by data that showed the number of international students taking up places in January 2024 was “way below the bottom end of projections for everyone.”
In January, Sunak highlighted changes in government policy to stop international graduate students from bringing family members to the UK, adding that the policy was “delivering for the British people.”
The government also announced in December that it was reviewing the so-called “graduate route” enabling international students to work in the UK for two years after they graduate and announced a crackdown on “low-value courses”, even though only 3 per cent are failing to meet criteria set out by the regulator.