(Original post at The Boar)
The Home Office is considering plans to reduce the number of visas for international students, according to sources from The Guardian.
Senior university figures told the newspaper that one model the government is considering would reduce overseas student numbers from 300,000 to 170,000.
The UK is the second most popular global destination for international students, and according to research by Universities UK, international students bring £10.7 billion to the UK economy each year.
The potential reduction in visa numbers is one of several obstacles for the UK’s international students, for whom fees are already much higher than for UK students, if they are from outside the EU.
Mostafa Rajaai, International Students Officer for the NUS, said: “We are extremely worried how the basic rights of so many international students have been taken away from them over the past few years.”
He added: “Many degrees at leading universities would not exist without the contribution of international students.”
The government’s potential plans are part of a wider attempt to reduce net migration levels in the UK, as announced by the Home Secretary at the Conservative Party conference in October.
In her address, Amber Rudd proposed: “A two-tier visa system to protect the best universities- and those that stick to the rules,” whilst “looking at tougher rules for students on lower quality courses.”
It is currently unclear how course or university quality would be defined, although it is suspected that the criteria would conform to the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF); the government’s new university league table. The TEF has been criticised by senior figures at several universities, who believe that its metrics are too easily manipulated and do not reflect high-quality teaching.
According to figures on net migration, partially gathered through the International Passenger Survey, around 93,000 non-EU international students overstay their visas after the end of their degree. However, criticism of the survey’s methodology, such as its practical constraints and difficulty measuring emigration, has been severe.
Alternative sources suggest that there are far fewer international students remaining in the UK than indicated in the IPS. An unpublished Home Office report that was leaked to The Times in October 2016 suggested that just 1% of international students overstay their visas.
Although the British public may wish to see a reduction in net migration levels, this does not appear to extend to international students. A ComRes poll conducted in October found that 62% of people surveyed would like to see the number of international students in the UK stay the same or increase.
Rakbo Perara, International Students Officer (Non-EU) for Warwick SU, commented: “I believe education is an inherent right for any individual, provided their criteria is met at university entrance.
“Brexit has brought quite threatening reforms to this right, given that international students contribute a high percentage of tuition fees.”
Sandhya Dhawan, a Biomedical Science student from Thailand, said: “I think there are better ways to go about reducing net migration, which don’t involve ruining someone’s chance at a better education. It’s sad, because nothing surprises me anymore since Brexit and Trump.”