Foreign students who intend to study in Britain may be turned away unless they have secured a place at a “top university,” according to a report by The Times newspaper.
The plans come as the Conservative government attempts to reduce net migration, as pledged in its 2019 manifesto.
A record 504,000 people immigrated to the U.K. in the year to June, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Ministers were allegedly discussing how to reduce flows to the U.K. after record levels of net migration were reported on Thursday.
According to the report, there will also be restrictions on how many family members the students are able to bring into the country with them. The rules will also only apply to foreign students who aren’t already living in the U.K.
However,the country’s Migration Advisory Committee has said that Rishi Sunak’s potential plan to clamp down on international students taking “low-quality” degrees could “send many universities over the edge”, particularly in poorer regions.
Prof Brian Bell told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Most universities for most courses lose money on teaching British students and offset that loss by charging more for international students. If you close down the international route I’m not sure how the university continues to survive.”
He said London, Cambridge and Oxford would do well if overseas students were only allowed places at “elite” universities, asking: “But what about Newcastle, what about the north-east, the north-west, Scotland?”
“If you’re interested in the levelling-up agenda, you might want to worry about harming universities around Britain,” the King’s College economics professor added. He pointed out that it was not just an immigration policy but also an education policy, as it could lead to a “massive increase” in British students’ fees to make up for the loss of foreign students’ payments.
A No 10 spokesperson declined to say what constitutes a “low quality” degree when pressed to provide a government definition on Friday.
Asked about concerns that the potential policy would damage universities and the UK economy, the official said: “Of course we support our universities – they’re some of the very best in the world – and of course we will always act in the best interest of the UK.”
The prime minister was considering a crackdown on international students bringing dependants and restricting admissions to top universities, Downing Street said on Thursday after net migration to the UK climbed to a record 504,000.
Sunak’s official spokesperson said he was “fully committed” to bringing overall immigration levels down and blamed “unprecedented and unique circumstances” for the record high.
The official said: “We’re considering all options to make sure the immigration system is delivering, and that does include looking at the issue of student dependants and low-quality degrees.”
This would be in line with proposals being explored by the home secretary, Suella Braverman, who has previously complained about foreign students “bringing in family members who can piggyback on to their student visa” and “propping up, frankly, substandard courses in inadequate institutions”.
Bell said restricting the number of family members students can bring to the UK is “certainly worth looking into”.
Culled from TheGuardian.Com