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International postgraduate enrollments have plunged by up to 44% – Universities UK  

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 Universities UK (UUK) has reported that postgraduate taught enrolments plunged by up to 44% last month. 

This decline is not unconnected to the recent regulations introduced in January, which restricts postgraduate students from bringing family members to the UK, including other regulations on international student recruitment by the UK government. 

According to Universities UK (UUK), findings from a London Economics study, estimated that the graduate visa scheme attracted an additional 632,000 international students over five years, contributing an unexpected £62.6 billion to the UK economy during their studies. 

Although the government is reviewing the policies for graduate visas with the aim of reducing immigration to the UK, Universities UK (UUK) believes that these visas play a crucial role in supporting UK employment, the economy, and the nation’s global objectives. 

UUK contends that further modifications to the visa regulations are unnecessary. They argue that the government’s concerns are based on outdated figures showing a surge in international student numbers, a trend that has already begun to plateau.

  • Decline in international student numbers 

A survey conducted by UUK across 73 universities revealed a significant drop in international student enrolment, particularly in postgraduate programs. This January saw a 44% decrease in such students compared to the previous year, a reduction greater than anticipated. 

This sharp fall in international students, who typically pay higher fees for postgraduate courses, poses a financial challenge for universities. 

Furthermore, data from Enroly, used by around 60 universities, indicates a decline in interest among international students in studying in the UK, evidenced by a significant drop in deposit payments compared to the previous year. 

Reports also indicate that about a third of international students they asked are thinking about studying in another country because the UK is thinking about changing the graduate visa rules. 

Vivienne Stern, UUK’s chief executive, said: 

  • “There is now a real danger of an over-correction on international student recruitment. 
  • “The UK is extremely fortunate to be a popular destination for international students. The whole country benefits from their decision to spend a few formative years with us. 
  • “I regret the fact the government appears to want to diminish our success in this area. Our new data shows that if they wanted to see a reduction in numbers, they have already achieved that through policy changes introduced earlier this year. 
  • “If they go further, they will damage the economies of towns and cities throughout the UK, as well as many universities.” 

John Foster, chief policy and campaigns officer for the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said: 

  • International students make a big contribution to local economies right across the UK while they are here. When they go home, they are ambassadors for the UK around the world. Selling a British education is an export success story for the UK.
  • “This analysis shows that speculation comes with a cost, with uncertainty surrounding whether the government will change or withdraw the graduate visa already damaging UK universities’ competitiveness.” 

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