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The UK Higher Education Bill: what does it mean for international students?

A new bill has been passed through the UK Parliament, which could have a huge impact on international students who want to study in Britain.

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A new bill has been rushed through the UK parliament which confirms that international students will continue to be included in net migration figures. The House of Lords - who are in charge of challenging the work of the government in the UK - recommended to take international students out of the figures. However, the UK’s head of state, Prime Minister Theresa May ignored their advice.

 

The Prime Minister was also pressed by International Trade Minister Liam Fox, and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, to remove international students from official immigration statistics, but she refused.

 

But why are we telling you all this? What does it mean?

 

Well, with the UK having the second highest number of international students of any country in the world, and Theresa May wanting to lower net migration to less than 100,000, this could be huge news for all those wanting to study in the UK from overseas.

 

Have a look at why so many international students come to the UK to study with this video.

 

Immigration figures:

Let’s try and get to grips with the numbers. First of all, it is important to say that Theresa May’s political party (The Conservative Party) has been trying to lower net migration in the UK to 100,000 for some time now, with no success. The UK’s previous Prime Minister, David Cameron, repeatedly missed the target. However, Theresa May is putting it high on her priorities list with the UK’s General Election coming up next month.

 

But how big a part do international students play in migration figures?

Looking at the stats, it seems they play a pretty big role.

 

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) numbers for the year ending June 2015, show that 192,000 people from around the world immigrated to the UK to study, whereas just 24,000 emigrated abroad. This means that 168,000 more people arrived to study in the UK than left to study abroad.

As a result, if Theresa May has any chance of reaching her target of less than 100,000, she will have to cut down drastically on the number of international students entering the country.

 

In October, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said that the government would do this by introducing tougher visa rules for students applying to ‘lower quality’ universities and courses.

 

Hotcourses Diversity Index:

The Hotcourses Diversity Index (HDI) is a tool which is used by students to help them compare levels of ‘international diversity’ on university campuses around the world. But, at this point, it also gives us a good idea of the impact Theresa May’s crackdown on international students may have on universities in the UK – particularly in London.

 

Interestingly, nine of the top ten most ‘internationally diverse’ universities in the UK have campuses in London. According to the HDI, those universities have a total of 79,569 international students between them, which already makes up nearly 80% of the Prime Minister’s 100,000 target for net migration.

 

The most internationally diverse university in the UK is actually the University of Westminster – where the UK Houses of Parliament is based! They have a whopping 169 different nationalities on their books, from 8,429 international students.

 

So, what does this mean for me?

Essentially, it looks like it is going to be made a lot more difficult for universities to give out a large number of visas for international students.

 

It is widely thought that the Home Office (the government department for immigration) is going to have a big crackdown on the universities that are too generous with student visas. At the moment, universities will only lose their licence to recruit international students if more than 10% of the students they recruit are refused visas by the Home Office. However, this could be lowered to 7%, meaning that some of the more lenient visa-giving universities in the UK could have their licence to recruit international students taken away from them.

 

Countries such as Australia and Canada are said to be benefitting from the UK government’s stance on this already, as they take the opportunity to increase their numbers of international students.

 

Although this all sounds very worrying for overseas students wanting to come to the UK right now, all of these policies will take some time to come into effect. In the meantime, make sure you keep your eye out for the bills confirmation, or for any opposition. With the General Election coming up next month, a lot of these plans could change if Theresa May is voted out of office.

 

For some more information on what other impacts the Higher Education and Research Bill will have on British universities, have a look at this article from WhatUni.com

 

If you are looking at studying in the UK next year, don’t let this get you down! Have a look at our UK institution search to inspire you. 

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About Author

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Raif is a huge football fan and loves an infographic. He studied on the NCTJ-accredited University of Sheffield Journalism course, which has recently been voted the UK's number one for journalism in the Guardian's University League Table. Raif will look out for any mentions on social media, and will always be happy to help with any queries on your study abroad journey.

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