UK Universities Face Declining International Applications Amid Visa Crackdown Concerns

UK universities see a 27% decline in international student applications amid potential restrictions on graduate visas. The government is considering changes to the visa route, sparking concerns from university and industry leaders about the impact on the UK's creative industries.

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Aqsa Younas Rana
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UK Universities Face Declining International Applications Amid Visa Crackdown Concerns

UK Universities Face Declining International Applications Amid Visa Crackdown Concerns

As the UK government considers potential restrictions on international student visas, including the graduate visa route, universities across the country are witnessing a significant drop in applications from overseas students for the upcoming academic year. A survey of 75 UK universities found a staggering 27% decline in total applications for taught postgraduate courses compared to the previous year, with nine out of ten institutions reporting fewer international applications.

Why this matters: The potential restrictions on international student visas could have far-reaching consequences for the UK's economy and global competitiveness, as the country's creative industries rely heavily on talented international graduates. If the graduate visa route is restricted, it could lead to a brain drain and negatively impact the UK's ability to attract and retain top talent.

The graduate visa entitlement, which allows international graduates to work in the UK for up to three years, has come under scrutiny as the government aims to tackle net migration. However, university and industry leaders warn that restricting student visas would have severe consequences for the country's thriving creative industries, which are worth an estimated £108 billion a year.

In a joint letter to the Home Secretary, Creative UK and Universities UK emphasized the importance of the graduate visa, stating, "Following further increases to visa fees and salary thresholds, the graduate visa represents one of the few routes left which enables talented graduates to remain in the UK and contribute to our growing creative industries." Sally Mapstone, Vice-Chancellor of St Andrews University and President of Universities UK, echoed these concerns, warning that restricting international students would be "calamitous not just for institutions but actually for the UK as a whole."

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) is set to deliver a report to the government on Tuesday, which may recommend restrictions on student visas. The British Academy has cautioned that removing the graduate visa would "stifle the vibrancy of the UK's academic and research landscape." A report by the Centre for Policy Studies thinktank, published last week, called for the abolition of the graduate visa, claiming it "allowed people to come and work in the gig economy and on very low wages."

Despite these concerns, 45% of Brits believe that UK universities outperform their global counterparts, with the public backing them as key to global success. The government has stated that it is "fully focused on striking the right balance between acting decisively to tackle net migration and attracting the brightest students to our universities."

As the debate surrounding international student visas continues, the potential impact on the UK's higher education sector and creative industries remains a critical point of discussion. With the MAC report expected this week, universities and industry leaders anxiously await the government's decision on the future of the graduate visa route and its implications for the country's global competitiveness.

Key Takeaways

  • UK universities see 27% drop in international student applications for postgraduate courses.
  • Restricting graduate visas could lead to brain drain and harm UK's creative industries.
  • Graduate visa route allows international students to work in UK for up to 3 years.
  • UK's creative industries worth £108 billion/year, rely on international graduates.
  • Government to decide on graduate visa route, balancing net migration and attracting top talent.