The UK government has pledged to tackle 'net immigration' from
"hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands" by 2015. Already now,
British universities start feeling the effects of this policy
change. Last year, Aston University (Birmingham) has seen a decline
of 39% in applications from India alone. A severe drop in
applications and admissions reduced the income of Aston University
by £3 million (€3.6 million). The total turnover of this rather
small university is £120 million (€143 million).
International student market
UK Universities worries about the effects of cutting immigration
numbers. Since English speaking nations are the biggest competitors
on the 'market of international students', UK institutions see
their global market share waning whereas the United States, Canada
and Australia are taking over. The British market share of 10.8% in
2000 has come down to 9.9% in 2009. The market for international
students is estimated to be worth £16 billion (€19 billion) by
The situation is all the more pressing as British universities
are facing €230 million in budget cuts and were increasingly
looking towards revenues from overseas students. Due to the
government's immigration restrictions this route is now cut
According to Professor Julia King, vice chancellor of Aston
University, the biggest impact has come from the recent changes affecting post study work visas. "This
has particularly impacted students India, Pakistan, Vietnam, they
can get loans in their home countries to cover their fees, but they
cannot can't take the risk of coming to the UK when they cannot
work for two or three years to start paying back their loans."
Only 8.000 native engineer graduates would be
Not only are the British losing out on their share of the
international student market, more importantly calculations done by
Engineering UK show that 'native graduates' will not be able to
fulfill the demand on the labor market. Of all undergraduate
engineering degrees, 26% is obtained by non-EU students and this
figure has risen significantly from 18% in 2004; a staggering 61%
of postgraduate degrees in the UK is obtained by non-EU students.
Julia King: "We are highly depended on overseas students to keep
our engineering courses running and solvent."
Without the influx of overseas students, Britain would have only
8.000 engineering graduates a year against 60.000 retirements
yearly in the engineering sector. Engineering industries say that
the sector needs 220.000 new skilled employees every year.
On the other hand there is great public concern about the number
of immigrants entering Britain. The 'net migration' number is
250.000. The great bulk of the immigration comes from outside
Europe and of those immigrants students form a large percentage.
This leads policymakers to conclude that tighter migration numbers
can only be met by slashing international students numbers.
UK universities sees no other option than to ask the government
to remove university sponsored international students from net
migration calculations for policy purposes. It remains to be seen
how the British government will respond.