Prime Minister urged to review international student regulations

Vice-Chancellors from 22 Alliance universities, and corresponding local chambers of commerce from across the UK, have written to the Prime Minister to urge a review of international student regulations that are threatening to impede economic growth.

Libby Hackett, Chief Executive of University Alliance, said:

“Counting international students separately within net migration figures was an important and positive move. Taking legitimate international university students outside of the immigration cap is the sensible next step, alongside improving the conditions of post-study work visas. This would bring the UK in line with many of its competitor countries and ensure that our sector can remain competitive.

“We need to send a strong message around the globe to say that the UK is open to any legitimate international students. Failure to act will risk the UK losing out to international competitors such as Canada and Australia, who are currently offering much more generous post-study visa conditions. Where Britain positions itself in the world now will have a huge impact on our future prosperity and success as the educator of choice.”

The letter in full

Dear Prime Minister,

We are writing to you jointly as Chambers of Commerce from across the UK and the 22 Vice-Chancellors of Alliance universities with a shared interest of ensuring that immigration regulations do not impede economic growth.

While we support measures to improve border controls and prevent abuse of the student visa route, the package and tone of recent reforms are already having a marked negative effect on the overseas student market. The recent announcement that the Government intends to publish international student numbers separately within net migration figures was a welcome step towards recognising that international student migration is distinct from permanent migration. However, we urge you to take the next step and remove international student numbers completely from net migration figures.

This is a key market for both universities and UK business and industry, and a proven successful export market for the UK – one of the most successful in the world. Damage to this market will have a detrimental economic, political and cultural impact at a time when we should be encouraging, not hindering, areas of strength and growth.

Overseas students benefit business through work placements or as permanent workers filling highly specialised skills needs, often in shortage areas, after graduation. These students are estimated to bring £8 billion to the UK annually. They also help to create an international environment for home students to study in, preparing them for the global workplace they will eventually graduate into.

When they return home, international students act as ambassadors for the UK – 76% of students graduating in 2012 indicated that they wished to establish links with UK business. The majority do, in fact, return home on completion of their studies or after a short period of postgraduate employment. These are not permanent migrants; they come to the UK for a limited time providing vital economic and cultural stimulus while they are here and beyond.

There is a compelling economic and cultural case not to use reductions in international students as a means of meeting net migration targets and to encourage them to come to the UK by making two-year post study work visas more easily available to them. This would be in line with our major international competitors in Australia and Canada who have made more post-study work visas available – a move that is already affecting our share of the market.

We would ask the Government to work with the sector on this important issue to explore ways of ensuring the UK remains open to international students.

Yours sincerely,



Press contact – Andrew Henry, | 07833 236 629

Further reading