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10th October 2022

Home Secretary disputes party policy on international students

The Home Secretary made comments on number of international students in the UK contradict Conservative goals
Home Secretary disputes party policy on international students
Photo: David Woolfall @ Wikimedia Commons

Suella Braverman MP, the Home Secretary, has claimed international students do not “contribute to the economy” and are increasing the “really high number of dependents” in the UK who aim to “piggyback” onto their student family members.

Braverman’s remarks, made at the recent Conservative Party conference, diverge both from party policy and the sentiment of universities around the UK.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, the Home Secretary also asserted that the UK has “too many students coming into this country who are propping up frankly substandard courses”. This echoed similar remarks by Andrea Jenkyns MP, the Minister for Higher Education, about cracking down on “Harry Potter degrees”.

Braverman received fierce backlash from many angles. Those disagreeing included former Universities Minister Jo Johnson, and from other influential institutions. University UK’s Jamie Arrowsmith remarked that “the Home Secretary’s comments are disappointing and indeed confusing”.

Braverman’s remarks also come amidst talk from university bosses about the prospect of raising domestic tuition fees and the need for more international students in the UK. Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sunderland, told the Sunday Times that universities “cannot afford not to take more overseas students”. He was joined by Professor Sir Chris Husbands, Vice-Chancellor at Sheffield Hallam, who said that “high-tariff universities” would bring in fewer UK students “because they can charge higher prices in international markets”.

Such comments regarding international students contradict the education strategy of the 2019 Conservative government, which aimed to increase international students in the UK to more than 600,000 a year. Braverman’s inconsistency with party policy also runs contrary to the Higher Education Policy Institute which found that international student’s net economic benefit of £25 billion is spread across every part of the UK.

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