Universities warn of fall in number of international student applications

Universities have reported a fall in the number of applications from international students, as they urged the Government against any further changes to its migration policy.

The warning comes ahead of a report expected this week on the graduate visa route amid concern from the university sector that the Government may introduce further restrictions on overseas students.

Of 75 universities responding to a survey this month, 88% reported a decrease in postgraduate applications from international students for the September 2024 intake compared to a year ago – with an aggregated decrease of 27%.

For undergraduate applications, 62% reported a reduction to the British Universities International Liaison Association (BUILA) survey – with an aggregated decrease of 5%.

The fall in applications follows the introduction of restrictions on students bringing family over to the UK, as well as higher salary thresholds for work visas.

The Government also commissioned a rapid review of the graduate visa route – which enables international students to work in the UK for two to three years after completing their course – raising fears from the sector that this could lead to further changes.

In a joint letter to the Home Secretary, university bodies including BUILA and the Russell Group said further changes risked undermining the success of the UK’s higher education sector.

They also expressed concern that the current restrictions are having a detrimental effect on the UK’s reputation as a leading study destination and said the provision of education to international students was one of the country’s most successful export sectors.

Other signatories of the letter included Independent Higher Education, MillionPlus, the UK Council for International Student Affairs, University Alliance and Universities UK International.

Figures from the Home Office published last month found that the number of dependents accompanying students to the UK has fallen by almost 80%, with more than 26,000 fewer student visa applications made from January to March 2024 compared to the same period in 2023.