Back to blog

LCN Blogs

Potential impact of restricting international students for UK universities

Potential impact of restricting international students for UK universities

Matthew Biggerstaff


Reading time: three minutes

The UK government has been restricting international students from coming over to continue their studies in the UK for the past number of years. A restriction on international student visas resulted in 80% fewer students bringing dependents with them into the UK. This also coincides with university applications dropping greatly, causing potential funding problems for many institutions, which risks their future. Despite the government’s independent adviser informing them that the current visa system isn’t being abused through UK universities and should stay in place, the government appear steadfast in its plan to alter the system to reduce immigration even further. 

Vice-chancellors of 26 northern universities have signed a letter being sent to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak,  which opposes the proposed further restrictions on graduate visas. Currently, graduate visas allow graduate international students to remain in the country for a further two years. Many northern universities rely heavily on their international students, with the proposed change almost certain to cause a reduction in international student applications, resulting in a lack of funding for universities. Not only are international students a key aspect of university funding and education, but they’re also key to growing local economies. This is plainly outlined through an analysis from Universities UK, which determined that the International Education Strategy has contributed £60 billion to the UK economy since it began.

The prime minister has spoken in the past about the possibility of preventing international students from completing ‘low-quality’ university courses, instead only providing student visas for courses that are considered to be the ‘most prestigious’. While a law degree is likely to come under this umbrella, universities ultimately have international students on all of their courses. Therefore, these proposed additional restrictions could see universities lose out on a huge amount of funding.  

Not only will the decrease in funding from international students mean less money for the universities, but it also means that universities may need to increase their fees in the future to raise missing funds. While the government suggests the restrictions on international students are for the benefit of the UK, there’s a possibility that it could result in British students being charged more in the future as universities make cuts and struggle to make up the money that’s been lost. 

As someone who wants to have a future in lecturing, chiefly at a northern university, these changes leave me extremely concerned about the future of many of the local institutions. When I read the news, I see further proposed changes to international student visas, reports on the potential economic issues and talk of cutting back on spending. This doesn’t fill me with confidence about my future career.

While, Labour has indicated in the past an intention to scrap university tuition fees, Kier Starmer has recently stated that this wouldn’t be possible in the short term if Labour are elected. It’s also unclear how universities would adapt without their main source of income, or how a Labour government would afford to sufficiently fund such institutions.

With a general election on the horizon, both parties should be placing a large focus on the current financial struggles UK universities are facing, and how it can be addressed. However, nothing will change regarding the graduate visa systems until after the conclusion of the election.

Commercial awareness banner