British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will consider “all options”, including reducing the number of foreign students, in his bid to curb the UK’s rising net migration, according to a report from the BBC.
Mr Sunak will investigate the imposition of curbs on foreign students taking so-called “low-quality” courses and bringing in dependents, the report said, citing a Downing Street spokesperson. However, the spokesperson has not defined what constitutes a “low quality” degree.
The UK government’s concerns about rising migration are allayed by the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) this week, which show a huge rise in the number of migrants. Net migration to the UK rose from 173,000 in 2021 to 504,000 this year – an increase of 331,000.
International students, especially Indians who first overtook the Chinese to form the majority of student visas, contributed greatly to this spike.
“We are considering all options to ensure that the immigration system works. The prime minister is fully committed to reducing the overall number,” Sunak’s spokesman said on Friday.
But controlling the number of migrants by limiting the number of foreign students is a difficult task. UK universities are leaning on higher fees from international students to make up for the money they lose by charging UK students a lower fee, with some universities even risking bankruptcy if restrictions are placed on so-called low-quality degrees, it said report.
A Indian community-led student organization on Friday urged the government to remove international students from the country’s immigration statistics. “Students temporarily in the UK should not be considered migrants. International students, of which Indians are the largest cohort, bring a net income of GBP30bn to the UK economy,” said Sanam Arora, President of National Indian Students and Alumni Union (NISAU) UK.
The Sunak government has pledged to reduce net migration in the UK with the Indian-origin Home Secretary Suella Braverman previously complained about Indian students staying in the country for too long. “I’m concerned about having an open border migration policy with India because I don’t think people voted for that with Brexit. Look at the migration in this country – the largest group of people who overstay are Indian migrants,” she had said.
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