Student UK visa changes 'could cause long-term economic damage'

07 Jun 2013 | Posted by Carl Thomas

The British economy could be hard hit in the long-term by changes to student UK visa access, research has found.

Conducted by Universities UK, a group which lobbies on behalf of the British higher education sector, the study found that the long-term damage to Britain's universities caused by the tightening of international student visa regulations could cost as much a £2.4 billion.

The lost funds would come from foreign students choosing to study in the US or Canada instead of the UK, which could result in the loss of as much as £350 million a year in revenue.

The report warned: “Such a change would not be easily reversed and, as seen in other higher education systems, the effects can endure across several academic years.”

The changes referenced are the restrictions on student visa applications introduced by the government from 2011 on. They have been designed to make it harder for overseas students on multi-year courses to obtain UK visas, while also cutting down on the employment options open to these people.

“This could put the UK's strong position within the global education market at risk and lead to a reduction in exports to the value of £2.4 billion across the entire [UK] education sector between 2012-13 and 24-25,” the paper concluded.

Mark harper, UK immigration minister, did not agree with the report's conclusions. He remarked: “Universities UK continue to criticise the government policies it initially supported. The UK remains open for business to the brightest and best international students: there is no limit on the number of international students who can come here and graduates can stay and work in the UK if they get a graduate level job."