International students inquiry

29 January 2018

The Russell Group is urging the Government to develop a clear strategy for international students and to expand the post-study work offer to help grow higher education as a major export.

In a new paper published today, the group representing 24 of the country’s top research-intensive universities, calls on Ministers to “set a clear trajectory for the UK and send a positive message globally of its ambition to grow international higher education links and its global share of international students,” helping the country to achieve its trade objectives.

The paper is the Russell Group’s contribution to the year-long inquiry being carried out by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) into the economic and social impact of international students in the UK. It calls on the Home Office to ensure a proportionate, streamlined system for student visas and to expand the range of post-study work opportunities available to encourage more prospective students to apply to UK institutions. In particular to:

  • build on the success of its Tier 4 pilot by applying the provisions to all masters students graduating from UK universities and allowing these students to stay for up to 12 months after their course ends
  • grow the UK’s STEM workforce by giving masters graduates in these subjects an additional 12 months to bring the UK in line with its international competitors
  • develop a pilot scheme for undergraduates attending ‘high compliance’ higher education institutions that enables students to stay for at least six months after their course
  • explore the options – including lower minimum salary thresholds for new entrants employed outside of London -  to enable all regions of the UK and a greater range of companies to benefit from international graduate talent.

The United Kingdom has the second highest share of all international students after the United States. However, figures show that in recent years, it has been losing its market share in the face of fierce competition from other OECD countries like Canada and Australia.

Chief Executive of the Russell Group, Dr Tim Bradshaw, said: “There are 200,000 international students at Russell Group universities, representing 34% of all students. They play an essential role in our world-class institutions. Just in monetary terms alone, every seven of our non-UK undergraduates generate £1 million of impact for the UK economy.

“However, it’s not just their economic benefit that is so invaluable. They contribute to a diverse student body and a thriving society, culture and economy – on campus, in local regions and across the whole UK.

“International students also help ensure our universities can deliver broad, high-quality academic programmes and support their world-class research activity. Without them, some courses at our universities – notably in strategically important disciplines including STEM - may not be financially viable. This would impact on the choice available to students from the UK.

“It would also have an impact on the quality of the teaching and learning experience, which benefits significantly from the global perspective that international students bring.

“Any major drop-off in income from non-EU students would also risk the capacity of our universities to deliver high-quality, impactful research and undertake ground-breaking science in priority areas such as precision medicine, artificial intelligence and agriculture.

“We hope our submission will form an important part of a new robust evidence base to underpin future immigration and visa policy on international students that brings lasting benefits to the United Kingdom.”

Migration Advisory Committee on international students

International students help ensure our universities can deliver broad, high-quality academic programmes and support their world-class research activity.




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