One of the spike in numbers that the UK had witnessed during the pandemic was the rise in international student numbers. In fact, the UK had announced its objective to attract over 600,000 students by 2030. However, with the change in immigration policies, the UK was able to achieve the numbers within the year itself.
With this spike in numbers also came concerns about citizenship and the government of an uncontrolled border. Recently, at the appointment of the Rishi Sunak government, it was determined that steps needed to be taken to reduce the net immigration numbers.
It was reported that the UK government limits the dependent visas for international students. The Financial Times reported that the Department of Education, the Treasury and the Home Office have been planning to prevent master’s students on one-year courses from bringing family members to the UK.
It was also reported a possible prediction wherein the UK net migration figures are expected to be high, which will be putting pressure on the government to tackle the issue. As per records, there had been a 30% increase in the number of students bringing their family members with them in 2022, totalling to 135,788 student visas. Among them, nearly 100,000 were issued to family members of Indian and Nigerian students.
The Director of Universities UK International, Jamie Arrowsmith, acknowledged the unprecedented growth in the number of dependents “exceeding planning assumption”, as well as the concerns that the government has raised, particularly around accommodation.
He added that the institution is committed to working with the government in understanding and finding solutions to the issues. He also added that the institution will work towards finding solutions that keep attracting a diverse range of international students, growing sustainably, and protecting the quality of student education and the competitiveness of the country in international education.
Another nay-sayer of the move, Lil Bremermann-Richard, the CEO of Oxford International Education Group, also highlighted the impact of the move, stating that it would make it “impossible, for many students to study in the UK.
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She emphasised the importance of providing “secure care alternatives, or to travel back and forth,”. She further highlighted the multiple options prospective international students currently hold in terms of possible study-abroad destinations, such as Canada, or other countries where students can bring their families while they complete their studies.
Adding to her comments, she stated that the policy would exclude a large pool of students who could be studying at UK universities, which would negatively impact UK international students. A spokesperson also commented on the move, stating that while the public expectation is to control the borders, the government will ensure that the country has the necessary skills for the economy and public services.
Furthermore, the proposed policy is not set out to be a blanket ban, but may only be limited to a select group of students. For instance, only students studying at top universities and enrolling in high-value courses will be eligible to bring their families to the country with them.
According to The Times newspaper, students who had been enrolled in courses that are considered, by ministers, to be of high value to the economy. These courses could include those in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) will be eligible to bring family members. Another set of suggestions also highlighted university rankings as a parameter that could help decide the student categories that would be eligible to bring dependents with them to the UK.
Calling for more clarity and certainty over the visa policy, Arrowsmith urged the government to commit to the targets that have been set out in the International Education strategy, while also maintaining the graduate route.
Source: The Pie News
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