The UK government has decided to abandon its plan to reduce the number of foreign students, according to a report by The Telegraph. Suella Braverman, who had previously advocated for a decrease in the number of foreign students, was overruled by the Department for Education (DfE).
The DfE argued that international students help to keep British tuition fees low. The department’s opposition prevented the government from reducing the number of foreign students, as fewer international students would mean higher fees for the British student population.
The Impact of Foreign Students on Tuition Fees
The Department for Education (DfE) thwarted the Home Secretary’s desire for significant cuts by arguing that international students “subsidise” domestic fees.
The latest published figures show that foreign student fees constituted 21% of UK universities’ overall income in 2021-22. The DfE source said: “Where do you think the money comes to subsidise these tuition fees? It’s from the international students.”
The Family Ban and Its Implications
Recently, the UK announced new restrictions on the ability of foreign students to bring family members to the UK as net annual net migration hit 606,000.
From next year, only students who are going to the UK to pursue postgraduate research courses will be able to bring their dependents. This announcement has raised concerns in the international student community.
Despite the initial plans to cut the number of foreign students, the Department for Education has managed to prevent further restrictions. Universities have also opposed reducing foreign student numbers, arguing that foreign students are filling funding gaps.
A senior person in the university sector, who did not want to be named, told The Telegraph that the announcement on dependents “could have been a lot, lot worse”. They added that foreign student fees were “central to the funding arrangements of every university in the country”.
The Role of Foreign Students in Funding Universities
Foreign students have been instrumental in funding UK universities. Jamie Arrowsmith, director of Universities UK International, which represents British higher education institutions on the world stage, last month said that foreign students were plugging funding gaps.
In a foreword to a report from the Higher Education Policy Institute think tank, he said they were “enabling universities to offer a much wider range of courses than would otherwise be viable, and, increasingly, cross-subsidising the teaching of home undergraduate students, which – thanks to recent high inflation levels – now makes a loss even in England”.
The strong educational ties between the UK and foreign countries are set to grow stronger with the increasing number of foreign students choosing to study in the UK.
The efforts of the Department for Education to facilitate the visa application process for foreign students are commendable and are expected to further enhance the educational exchange between the UK and other countries.