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Ensure Britain’s universities can attract international students

Last updated: 12:44pm 12 July 2018

Britain is an open economy and a welcoming society and we will always ensure that our British businesses can recruit the brightest and best from around the world and Britain’s world-class universities can attract international students.
Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.54

Our verdict

Since the Brexit vote particularly, a big concern for universities and employers is that international students will be less willing to study in the UK. These concerns are real; in February 2017, it was reported that since the vote, 7% fewer applications had been received by British universities from European students. This could have a huge effect on the British economy. A study by Universities UK, the membership body for British universities, found that international students are worth a staggering £25 billion to our economy. These students are important to British companies and universities as well, as they would like to attract the best and the brightest, regardless of where they are from.

The government has made two actions in its response.

1) In December 2017, the government announced that it would extend a visa pilot scheme for postgraduate international students to 23 universities. The scheme streamlines the immigration process for international postgraduates applying to these universities, whilst also providing greater support for those looking to switch from a student visa to a working visa by allowing these students to stay in the UK for an extra 6 months once their course ends.
Whilst it is too early to tell if this policy has been effective, it shows that the government is in the process of implementing the policy.

2) Secondly, the government has also commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to assess in detail the social and economic impact of international students to the UK. The study will have four focuses, including:

  • investigating how tuition fees affect students’ willingness to study in the UK
  • investigating how international students affect the labour market, housing and transport services
  • investigating how international students impact the local economy
  • investigating the impact of international students on the education provided to domestic students

The findings for the commission are set to be presented in September 2018. By commissioning this study it has begun to put in place a knowledge base that will help it understand how best to act. Both of these actions highlight that the government, whilst not yet fulfilling the policy, is in the process of doing so. As a result, it has been marked as ‘in progress’.

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