Immigration cuts hurt British HE, businesses

Nieuws | de redactie
12 maart 2012 | 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 policychange. Last year, Aston University (Birmingham) has seen a declineof 39% in applications from India alone. A severe drop inapplications and admissions reduced the income of Aston Universityby £3 million (€3.6 million). The total turnover of this rathersmall university is £120 million (€143 million).

International student market

UK Universities worries about the effects of cutting immigrationnumbers. Since English speaking nations are the biggest competitorson the ‘market of international students’, UK institutions seetheir global market share waning whereas the United States, Canadaand Australia are taking over. The British market share of 10.8% in2000 has come down to 9.9% in 2009. The market for internationalstudents is estimated to be worth £16 billion (€19 billion) by2025.

The situation is all the more pressing as British universitiesare facing €230 million in budget cuts and were increasinglylooking towards revenues from overseas students. Due to thegovernment’s immigration restrictions this route is now cutoff. 

According to Professor Julia King, vice chancellor of AstonUniversity, the biggest impact has come from the recent changes affecting post study work visas. “Thishas particularly impacted students India, Pakistan, Vietnam, theycan get loans in their home countries to cover their fees, but theycannot can’t take the risk of coming to the UK when they cannotwork for two or three years to start paying back their loans.”

Only 8.000 native engineer graduates would beleft

Not only are the British losing out on their share of theinternational student market, more importantly calculations done byEngineering UK show that ‘native graduates’ will not be able tofulfill the demand on the labor market. Of all undergraduateengineering degrees, 26% is obtained by non-EU students and thisfigure 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 keepour engineering courses running and solvent.”

Without the influx of overseas students, Britain would have only8.000 engineering graduates a year against 60.000 retirementsyearly in the engineering sector. Engineering industries say thatthe sector needs 220.000 new skilled employees every year.

Immigration concerns

On the other hand there is great public concern about the numberof immigrants entering Britain. The ‘net migration’ number is250.000. The great bulk of the immigration comes from outsideEurope and of those immigrants students form a large percentage.This leads policymakers to conclude that tighter migration numberscan only be met by slashing international students numbers.

UK universities sees no other option than to ask the governmentto remove university sponsored international students from netmigration calculations for policy purposes. It remains to be seenhow the British government will respond.

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