UK Government urged to be more welcoming to international students

by Ray Clancy on January 19, 2018

The Mayors of key locations in the UK want international students to feel welcome amid concerns that the numbers applying to study have slowed sharply.

They want the British Government to rethink its policies on international students and see them as the asset that they are, not just for universities, but for the economy, trade and international relations in the future.

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The Mayors of Cambridgeshire, Greater Manchester, London, Liverpool, the West Midlands, and Tess Valley have sent a letter to the Migration Advisory Committee, the independent agency which advises the Government on migration issues.

They point out that Britain is one of the most attractive destinations in the world for international students but number of overseas students coming to the UK to study rose by just under 1% to 442,755 in the 2016/2017 academic year compared with 2015/2016.

Fewer students applied from countries such as India and Nigeria but there has also been a slowdown in applications from European Union countries and this is partly attributed to Brexit.

Higher education leaders have pointed out that tough visa restrictions on overseas students are putting them off looking to Britain to study for a degree.

‘As the UK prepares to leave the EU, it is important that any future immigration system acknowledges the vital contribution international students make to regional jobs and growth. This includes projecting a more open and welcoming message for international students,’ the letter says.

New research from think tank the Higher Education Policy Institute says that each year’s intake of overseas students brought £22.6 billion of benefits to the economy while imposing only £2.3 billion costs on the public sector.

It found many of the biggest economic beneficiaries of international students were cities such as Sheffield, Manchester and Liverpool.

‘This report confirms the vital net contribution international students make to the UK. This is both in terms of their contribution to the economy, and their positive cultural and academic impact on campuses. It is clear that this positive impact extends to university towns and cities in all corners of the UK. It is estimated that international students support over 200,000 jobs in communities across the UK,’ said Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, the voice of universities across the country.

‘Looking ahead, we need to see a new post-Brexit immigration policy that encourages all suitably qualified international students to choose to study in the UK. The UK excels in this area and has the potential to build on its status as one of the most popular destinations in the world for international students,’ he explained.

‘This includes enhancing the post study work opportunities for qualified international graduates, as many of our international competitors have been doing to improve their student visa offer. This should be coupled with an expanded international communications campaign, backed by Government, to highlight that international students are welcomed and valued visitors to the UK,’ he added.

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