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1st May 2024

MPs launch investigation into university reliance on international student fees

As the government pushes to cut down migration numbers, the education select committee begins an investigation into the reliance of universities on international student fees
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MPs launch investigation into university reliance on international student fees
Credit: Ugur Akdemir @ Unsplash

Parliament has announced that it will investigate whether universities are reliant on the funding of international students.

The investigation is being led by the cross-bench education select committee, chaired by Robin Walker MP, the conservative MP for Worcester.

The enquiry will also look into how this reliance might be affected by recent changes the government is introducing and planning to introduce to immigration rules.

This has come after UniversitiesUK, an independent non-governmental organisation, warned that significant numbers of international students are now feeling discouraged about coming to study in the UK, following changes the government has introduced in order to bring down immigration figures.

These include changes to the rules allowing students to bring in dependents with them on a student visa, in addition to the the wage requirements for a skilled worker visa increasing to £38,000 from £26,200, despite an exception put in place for recent graduates.

The Migration Advisory Committee is also set to review the graduate visa route (a 2 year post-graduate visa for international students). Their findings are due in May.

The statement expresses concerns about budget deficits becoming increasingly common at some British Universities, and “as a result, universities are increasingly looking to international students to cover budget shortfalls, as they pay significantly higher fees than domestic students.”

The chair of the committee Robin Walker MP said, “This inquiry will explore concerns that some universities have become too reliant on students from abroad to shore up their balance sheets, and to what extent this is sustainable.”

This comes in the aftermath of a report published in The Timestitled “cash for courses” which alleged that some universities were offering lower grade requirements to foreign students to entice them to study in the UK.

A report by the conservative think tank “Onward” suggested slashing student visas further in order to cut migration numbers.

This would entail limiting the number of universities able to take in international students to only the “best-performing” universities.

The report was endorsed by former government minister and Conservative MP Michael Gove.

As part of a weekly update to staff written by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester, Nancy Rothwell, she wrote that she met with the Migration Advisory Committee in April, and “stressed the critical importance of these visas (2 Year Graduate Visa) for attracting international students to the UK.

We stressed the talent and value of international students to our universities, without whom we would be limited in our ability to undertake many activities.”

The Vice-Chancellor also noted that “our applications [of international students] are holding up quite well, but some also reported very late attrition so even if applications and acceptances look strong this is not a guarantee of enrolment.”

Miles Davenport

Miles Davenport

Co-Editor of News, 2023-2024, 3rd year student in History & Sociology

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