UK PM Rishi Sunak Plans Curbs On Foreign Students To Control Migration; Several Universities Could Go Bankrupt

New Delhi: UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is considering curbs on foreign students taking “low quality” degrees and bringing dependents, Downing Street said. The PM’s spokesman said the idea was being looked at after official figures showed net migration to the UK had climbed to a record half a million, BBC reported.

But they declined to define a “low quality” degree or to “pre-empt” any policy decisions. A government migration adviser warned it would bankrupt many universities. Plans to bring down numbers could include restricting admissions to top universities, as well as restricting visas for students’ dependants, The Times reported.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has previously complained about foreign students “bringing in family members who can piggyback onto their student visa” and “propping up, frankly, substandard courses in inadequate institutions”.

The UK government’s concerns about rising migration have been set off by the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures this week that showed a huge jump in the number of migrants. Net migration to the UK rose from 173,000 in 2021, to 504,000 this year – an increase of 331,000.

But moves to reduce foreign student numbers could meet resistance in other parts of Whitehall. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt last week insisted immigration was required to boost growth, adding that there had to be “a long-term plan if we’re going to bring down migration in a way that doesn’t harm the economy.” He said migration would be needed for the years ahead- that will be very important for the economy”.


The Department for Education could raise concerns over universities’ funding if the number of high-fee-paying international students is cut. An adviser on immigration policy has warned some universities could go bankrupt if there is a clampdown on so-called “low-quality” degrees. Chair of the government’s Migration Advisory Committee, Professor Brian Bell, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this could “send many universities over the edge,”particularly in poorer regions.

“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. London, Cambridge and Oxford would continue to do well but “what about Newcastle, what about the north-east, the north-west, Scotland?”

He also warned that the policy could result in a “massive increase” in British students’ fees to make up for the loss of foreign students’ payments, BBC reported.

The National Union of Students (NUS) said it would be “laughable” if the government made it harder for international students to study in the UK, given the country’s skills shortage. It accused ministers of “starving” higher education of funds, while encouraging the exploitation of foreign students as “cash cows through astronomical fees and violent visa regimes”.

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