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  • Immigration cuts hurt British HE, businesses

    - Tough immigration policies of the British government will severely impact higher education and the labor market. Therefore, the lobby group UK Universities now pleas for leaving international students out of the ‘net migration’ sum.

    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 2025.

    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 off. 

    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 left

    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.

    Immigration concerns

    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.