Report blames 'unwelcome' UK visa system for drop in STEM students

15 Apr 2014 | Posted by Carl Thomas

A report from the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has found that an “unwelcoming” atmosphere in Britain, partly contributed to by the current UK visa system, is to blame for the significant decline in international students studying Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) topics.

There is a particular shortage of workers with this skillset in the country at the moment, making the decline in overseas students somewhat worrying when you look at the numbers. According to the committee, there has been a ten per cent decline in STEM student enrollments over the last two years, with UK immigration policy primarily to blame.

In response, the report urged the government to take another look at its “contradictory” regulations on UK visa access, stating on the website: “The Government are simultaneously committed to reducing net migration and attracting increasing numbers of international students (15-20 per cent over the next five years). This contradiction could be resolved if the Government removed students, who comprise a majority of non-EU immigrants, from the net migration figures.”

A Home Officer spokesperson denied the claims in an interview with The Guardian. The spokesperson said: “We do not accept that the UK's immigration rules are deterring international students and there is no clear evidence in the report to support that argument.

“The student visa system we inherited was weak and open to widespread abuse. We are controlling immigration while still attracting the brightest and the best.”

Attempts to reduce student immigrants are part of ongoing efforts to cut net migration to the tens of thousands before the next election. The plans have already been widely criticised for their negative impact on British society and business, with the latest criticisms regarding the impact on STEM skills continuing in this vein.