• Friday, June 21, 2024
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UK universities at risk as report warns student visa cuts threaten closures, job losses

UK universities at risk as report warns student visa cuts threaten closures, job losses

A recently released report commissioned by the UK government and prepared by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has highlighted significant concerns regarding the potential dangers of further restrictions on international student numbers in Britain.

The report indicates that such measures could have dire consequences, including university closures and widespread job losses.

The MAC report revealed a dramatic 63% decline in postgraduate student registrations for the upcoming academic year. This significant drop follows recent government-imposed restrictions on education visas, which have raised alarms about the sustainability of many educational institutions.

Read also: Visa uncertainty leaves the fate of London’s universities ‘in the balance’

The committee warns that further limitations on the so-called graduate route, which allows foreign students to work in Britain for up to two years post-graduation, could exacerbate the situation, potentially leading to job losses and course closures, with some institutions even facing the threat of closure.

Britain boasts some of the world’s most renowned universities, including Oxford, Cambridge, and Imperial College London. These institutions are not only pivotal for innovation and creativity but also contribute to the UK’s soft power, as many global leaders have studied at British universities.

Business leaders have underscored the critical role these institutions play in the national economy. Despite these strengths, the government has commissioned the MAC review amid concerns that the graduate visa route was being exploited, with allegations from some politicians that students were using it to seek asylum or overstay their visas. However, the MAC found no evidence of widespread abuse.

Read also: 4 UK visa options for Nigerians and others, without an employee letter

Since the Brexit referendum in 2016, managing migration has been a significant political issue in the UK. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government has focused on reducing the number of international students, particularly those in postgraduate programs, as part of a broader effort to control legal migration.

Esther McVey, a minister in Sunak’s cabinet, has accused some universities of “selling immigration to international students rather than education.” However, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) argues that British universities are one of the country’s biggest export successes.

Given the MAC’s findings that the system is not being abused, the CBI has called for an end to the damaging speculation and a move to secure the future of UK higher education.

Read also: Lamentations in UK as international students number drop on strict student visa rule

What is the Graduate Route Visa?

The graduate route visa allows international students to work in the UK for two years after graduating from British universities, including top institutions like Oxford, Cambridge, Sussex, and SOAS.

This visa is crucial for students seeking work experience and potential pathways to permanent work visas.

Key Statistics

The UK remains a top destination for international students, second only to the United States. In 2023, 114,000 Graduate Route visas were issued, with an additional 30,000 visas for dependents.

The top nationalities of recipients include students from India , Nigeria, China, and Pakistan, with the majority pursuing taught master’s degrees. Notably, 66% of these visas were issued to students attending non-Russell Group universities.

Read also: Here’s how to apply in 2024 for a UK seasonal worker visa

New Immigration Rules for International Students

To curb migration, the UK has implemented new immigration rules affecting international students, including restrictions on bringing dependents.

Postgraduate research students, except for those in Master of Research (MRes) and Doctorate programs, can no longer bring dependents to the UK.

Caregivers are also restricted from bringing dependents into the country.

Changes for Skilled Workers

Higher salary thresholds now apply to skilled workers wishing to bring dependents into the UK. The minimum salary required for a Skilled Worker visa has increased significantly.

The 20% “going-rate” discount for migrant workers in shortage occupations has been removed.

The minimum salary for Skilled Worker visa applicants has risen by 48%, from approximately £26,200 to £38,700