Crackdown on international students could cost UK £2bn a year - thinktank

Posted On: 
12th January 2017

Further restrictions on international students coming to the UK after Brexit could cost the economy £2bn a year, a leading higher education thinktank has said. 

Amber Rudd has said she wants to cut international student numbers to meet the Government's immigration target
Credit: 
PA Images

In a report on how Brexit and other global influences could affect the sector, the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) forecasts that bringing fees and rules for EU students in line with other countries could result in 31,000 fewer EU enrolments.

The impact of that would be offset, the report claims, by 20,000 more non-EU students potentially being attracted to the UK by the depreciation of the pound.

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Home Secretary Amber Rudd has made clear that cutting the number of non-UK students in British universities will form part of her efforts to cut immigration.

Hepi says if the Government’s policies were to stop the 20,000 extra students attracted by the exchange rate from coming to the UK, the overall impact on the UK economy of global changes would increase sharply.

Universities would lose out on £463m in tuition fees, while other spending by foreign students would fall £604m and the knock-on effect on supply chains would be a further £928m, bringing the total cost to £2bn.

Nick Hillman, the director of Hepi and a former adviser to Tory ex-universities minister Lord Willetts, urged ministers to protect the higher education sector.

“British universities are in choppy waters and this research shows the options ahead,” he said.

“Policymakers can either push our higher education institutions towards the icebergs or help them reach the relative safety of the open seas.

“Were the Home Office to conduct yet another crackdown on international students, then the UK could lose out on £2bn a year just when we need to show we are open for business like never before.

“Removing international students from the net migration target would be an easy, costless and swift way to signal a change in direction.”

No 10 has consistently rejected calls – including from Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson – to remove students from the net migration statistics.

Instead, Ms Rudd announced plans at last year’s Conservative party conference to tie students’ right to come to the UK with the quality of the institution they are enrolling in.