The Government’s “damaging” visa policies are making Britain a “difficult and unattractive” place to study for international students, a new report has warned.
According to the findings from the Chartered Association of Business Schools (CABS), last year’s business school student intake from outside the EU “fell sharply” by almost nine per cent. This, in turn, could have a detrimental effect on postgraduate taught programmes – such as the MBA – where 52 per cent of students are international.
Despite business and administration courses being among the most popular in the UK, and the country having some of the world’s top schools – from where both undergraduates and MBA graduates can expect “above average earnings” when compared with other subjects – business school leaders have told the report prospective overseas students are being “turned off” by Britain’s post-study work restrictions. Instead, they are choosing other countries to study in.
One business school dean said: “The UK, as a destination, has become less attractive than the US, Canada, or Australia. This is largely the consequence of post-study work visa issues.”
Another has been quoted as saying: “Increased forecasts for student recruitment to the UK is ‘la-la land’.”
On the whole, CABS said international students studying business contribute £2.4 billion to universities and the UK economy. However, its latest figures have revealed this to be in decline.
Now, though, together with its members, CABS said it is calling on the Government to change the policy on student visas to make Britain “a more attractive place to study again.”
Chair of CABS, Professor Simon Collinson, described how, in 2014/15, UK business schools experienced “the sharpest decline” of international students, and said the new report shows this to be “damaging” for, not only the institutions, but for jobs and communities beyond that rely on the income from international students.
He said: “Although our business schools remain competitive and our universities are amongst the best in world, international students are choosing other countries for their education because our immigration regulations make this country difficult, or unattractive, to enter.
“Not only are we turning away investment, we are turning away international talent. These skilled, entrepreneurial and globally mobile students are the leaders of tomorrow and the UK’s immigration policies should be designed to attract them so that our universities and our economy can benefit from the diversity and added value they bring.”
Gordon Marsden, shadow minister for further education, also told PoliticsHome the report has show an “increasingly adversarial approach” being taken by the Home Office.
The Government’s new rules were confirmed by the Home Office last July and were designed to crack down on visa fraud in the UK and “control immigration for the benefit of Britain.”
At the time of the announcement, immigration minister, James Brokenshire, said: “Immigration offenders want to sell illegal access to the UK jobs market – and there are plenty of people willing to buy.
“Hardworking taxpayers who are helping to pay for publicly-funded colleges expect them to be providing top-class education, not a back door to a British work visa.”
The CABS report has come out on the same day Times Higher Education’s (THE) European University Rankings were released, showing that, despite the UK coming out on top as having the most top institutions on the continent, other countries – particularly Germany – are beginning to catch up as students opt to study elsewhere to avoid the UK’s tough visa rules.
Editor of the rankings, Phil Baty, said: “Not only are our restrictive immigration policies and noisy rhetoric leading many students to perceive they are not welcome in the UK, we are also seeing the increasing popularity of European universities which are often just as highly ranked as their UK competitors but also much, much cheaper to study with.
“These powerful universities on the continent are actively challenging UK market share: delivering more and more degree courses fully in English to attract students who, in the past, would only have chosen the UK, US, or Australia.
Emphasising the “huge importance” of international students to the health of the UK higher education system, and the wider economy, Mr Baty added: “They spend about £4.5 billion on tuition fees and accommodation alone, but they also add much to the overall student experience by supporting a rich, multicultural campus life for all students.
“But this vital lifeline is increasingly at risk – for the first time this year, the UK saw international student numbers stagnate, with significant drops from some countries.”
The NUS also released data on Wednesday which showed student numbers across England have plummeted from six million in the 2012/13 academic year, to 5.2 million in 2014/15 because of the Government’s “regressive policies.”
NUS vice president for higher education, Sorana Vierum warned: “Every time the Government launches a new attack on students, they tout out that the numbers haven’t been affected or have increased.
“This is blatantly untrue and the Government needs to realise the damage its policies are causing.”