International students to the UK may face tighter visa restrictions

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A think tank focused on higher education has said that restricting international students studying in the UK harms the country both domestically and internationally.

The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), released a statement claiming that 55 world leaders had been educated in the UK. The group said this helps the country to punch above its weight, and gives it better international standing for its size.

HEPI also claimed that competition for international students is ‘fierce’, and warned that Britain could fall behind as a top destination for students.

International students generally don’t have access to loans in Britain, and have work restrictions – meaning that their student fees come from outside directly into the UK. In this sense, higher education can be seen as an export of the UK.

The Home Office is planning to decrease the number of immigrants in the coming years, although this has been promised before. This time, the Home Office is including international students in this category, meaning any attempts at a reduction in numbers could reduce the number of student visas available.

International students are unlike most economic migrants because their money goes directly into the economy, they do not work, and the vast majority return home once they have completed their studies.

The incoming vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford expressed her concern – citing a decrease in competitiveness among foreign universities if barriers to entry are put into force.

International students provide investment

Not only do international students bring the tuition fees (without British loans) into the country, it can be argued that their contributions to the economy help boost many areas of the UK. Funds spent on rent, food, entertainment and travel all contribute to various sectors of the UK economy. And, in contrast to tourism, international students tend to stay for a few years rather than a few weeks as they complete their education.