University bosses are warning the Government that the economy could lose out on around £2 billion a year if it presses ahead with plans to make it more difficult for overseas students to study in Britain.
The figure comes from the Higher Policy Education Institute (Hepi), which was looking at how Brexit would affect higher education. Although the report found universities could hike their fees for international students after the UK left the EU, they would ultimately lose more than they gained if harsh limits were set on student UK visa numbers.
Hepi director, Nick Hillman, said: “Were the Home Office to conduct yet another crackdown on international students, then the UK could lose out on £2 billion a year just when we need to show we are open for business like never before.
“Removing international students from the net migration target would be an easy, costless and swift way to signal a change in direction.”
However, Prime Minister Theresa May has signalled that students will not be removed from net migration statistics. She was also responsible for tightening the rules on international students when she was Home Secretary.
The report forecasts that the UK could lose around £500 million annually in student fees if numbers fell by 20,000. The country as a whole is predicted to miss out on around £600 million in student spending on food, rent and other outgoings such as entertainment. Plus, Hepi estimates a further £900 million could be lost in university supply chains.
It expects older, well-known universities to continue to draw in applicants while less prestigious seats of learning lose out.
Although the report said universities would be free to charge higher fees post-Brexit, and a weaker pound may attract international students hoping to see their money go further, visa restrictions would cancel out the possible benefits.