New Prime Minister Theresa May is understood is be putting the spotlight on the number of UK visas granted to international students as part of efforts to reduce immigration numbers.
Mrs May, who introduced a number of tough new policies to bring down net migration figures while serving as Home Secretary, is reportedly looking at how the criteria for obtaining a student visas can be tightened.
As Home Secretary she had previously written a confidential letter to other ministers calling on universities to develop different methods of raising funds, which did not depend so heavily on international students.
She had been in conflict with George Osborne on the issue. The then Chancellor, who has been removed from the post in Mrs May’s Cabinet reshuffle, had stressed the economic benefits that overseas students brought to the UK.
The Independent reported that Mrs May’s focus on reducing overseas student numbers is causing concern.
National Union of Students international officer, Mostafa Rajaai, said: “Thanks to Theresa May's approach to international students while she was in charge of the Home Office, we have witnessed, for the first time in 30 years, a drop in the number of international students coming to the UK. This is while the number of internationally mobile students has been rising year on year.”
He said that the UK’s student visa programme is already “one of the toughest and least welcoming in the world” and the Higher Education sector will miss out on hundreds of thousands of overseas students if it is further tightened.
Reports suggest that Mrs May is now considering a ban on universities marketing courses as opportunities for students to work in the UK and further action to make sure that international students return to their home countries once they have completed their courses.