Student visa reforms

22 March 2011

Commenting on the Government’s confirmation of its reform of the student immigration system, Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group of universities, said:

“Higher education is one of our most successful export industries. Through their tuition fees and living expenditure alone, international higher education students are worth at the very least £5.8 billion each year. It is vital that the UK continues to attract the very best students from around the world who contribute so much to our economy and our global standing in higher education. We are pleased that the Government has clearly listened to our concerns and modified its proposals to try to ensure that our ability to attract the best students is not harmed while cracking down on any abuses of the immigration system. Today’s announcements give more assurance that universities will be allowed to continue to sponsor the best-qualified international students both at degree and other levels. However, much will depend on the how these proposals are implemented at an operational level and we shall be monitoring very closely their effects on our universities. 

“We welcome the Government’s recognition that high-quality sub-degree provisions are essential pathways from which many of the best international students progress to full degrees at leading universities. We also appreciate the government’s recognition of the value of being able to grant the best international UK university graduates the opportunity to work for a short period in highly-skilled jobs. But it will be important to ensure that the new route for bright international students to work after graduation operates as efficiently as possible on the ground. Without the ability to offer short-term work opportunities of this nature, we would fail to attract some of the world's brightest students who would choose to study elsewhere.   

“The Government’s statement that postgraduates will be able to bring dependants to the UK is helpful and we hope they will be given the opportunity to work. The ability to attract the most talented postgraduate research students is essential to the research endeavour and the international competitiveness of Russell Group institutions, and it is older students and those doing research degrees who are most likely to want and need to bring their dependants with them to the UK. 

“The UK must be able to show that its doors are open to genuine international students who have made such an important contribution to the considerable intellectual and financial success of UK higher education.”

Note to Editors

  1. The report Global Value by British Council estimated that in 2002-03 higher education attracted £2.1 billion of investment into the UK in the form of tuition fees paid by non-UK students and that students also accounted for £2.6 billion in other spending whilst in this country.  Given that the total population of non-UK students in the UK increased by 23 percent between 2002-03 and 2008-09 (from 300,055 to 368,970), it is likely that tuition fees and living expenditure of all non-UK HE students now account for a minimum of £5.8 billion investment in the UK.

Policy area

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