Government’s message on immigration could deter foreign students

The chief executive of Universities UK has said that the Coalition’s tough stance on immigration may deter foreign students from studying in Britain.

Nicola Dandridge, who leads the representative organisation for the UK’s universities, said: “”We are concerned about the language and the atmosphere that is being created, not least because it plays very, very badly internationally. Whatever the intentions of the politicians are … every time these sorts of comments are made by the home secretary or others it does have a potentially very damaging impact internationally.”

She said that the call from Theresa May last month to drastically extend the student monitoring activities of the UK Border Agency and end the recruitment of “bogus students” could drive legitimate students to competing English-speaking nations such as the US, Canada and Australia.

Thomas Innes, president of the UK Law Students’ Association, commented: “UK universities’ law departments are undoubtedly competing in a vast global market for international students. Universities put considerable effort into attracting the brightest foreign students, and rightly so: the university environment is considerably enriched by having a wide spectrum of individuals studying law together.

“In a marketplace as competitive as this, the perceived or actual hostility of a university’s national government towards non-EU students does have the potential to deter strong applicants… Fortunately, my experience is that so far applicants to law schools do not seem to have let the government’s stance on immigration affect their choice of university. The quality of education on offer has perhaps outweighed such fears.”

Updated Ucas figures showing the total number of students who have applied to study next year are not yet available but preliminary statistics, which last year showed 60 per cent of total applicants, reveal a decreased rate of EU and non-EU students applying to study in the UK. From 2007, there has been a seven per cent increase year on year, which has slowed to a 0.8 per cent increase in 2012-2013.

London Metropolitan, which had its licence to recruit international students revoked by the UK Border Agency, has hit out at BBC claims that its student numbers halved this academic year. (12 November 2012)