ishi Sunak is considering cracking down on foreign students who bring dependents and study “low quality” degrees after net migration to the UK rises to a record half million.
Downing Street indicated that plans to lower the total numbers could include putting up barriers for loved ones of international students and limiting admissions to top universities.
This would be in line with proposals being explored by Interior Secretary Suella Braverman, who previously complained about foreign students “bringing in family members who can piggyback on their student visas” and “supporting frankly substandard courses in inadequate institutions.”
We are considering all options to make sure the immigration system works, and that includes looking at the issue of dependent students and low quality degrees
It is estimated that in the 12 months to June 2022, around 504,000 more people moved to the UK than left, a sharp increase from 173,000 in the year to June 2021.
The estimates were compiled by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which said the jump was caused by “unique” factors, including visa regulations for Ukrainians and Hong Kong residents, and students arriving from outside the European Union.
People arriving on study visas accounted for the bulk of long-term immigration of non-EU nationals, with 277,000, or 39% of the total, according to the ONS.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman stressed that Sunak was “fully committed” to lowering the overall level of immigration and blamed “unprecedented and unique circumstances” for the record high.
The official said: “We are considering all options to ensure that the immigration system works, and that includes looking at the issue of dependent students and low-quality degrees.”
But such moves may face resistance from other parts of Whitehall.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt stressed last week that immigration is needed to boost growth.
“There has to be a long-term plan if we want to reduce migration in a way that doesn’t hurt the economy,” he said.
“We recognize that we will need migration in the coming years – that will be very important for the economy.”
The Ministry of Education could raise concerns about university funding if the number of high-paying international students is reduced.
Migration from non-EU countries, particularly students, has increased levels of long-term immigration, says Jay Lindop, ONS deputy director of the Center for International Migration.
“With the lifting of travel restrictions in 2021, more students came to the UK after studying remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic,” she added.