Increased visa fees and ‘rip-off’ crackdown will level down the UK

A Union Jack flying

The UK government has often said it is proud of its globally respected universities and thriving international education sector. At a time when global trade and inward investment are vital to economic recovery, higher education is a sector in which the UK is genuinely world leading.

This week, however, the government has not best shown its support. The reason is pure politics. As part of a broader push to fulfil pledges to reduce net migration to the UK, it has announced a spate of policies that in fact jeopardise the country’s position as a world-class international study destination. 

The prime minister’s latest announcement of “significant” increases to visa fees and an already high immigration health surcharge to help fund public sector pay awards amounts to a new tax on international students. This policy, following on the heels of recent restrictions on numbers of dependants, has been reported around the world and seems likely to result in a downturn in international student numbers.

What is less understood is just what this would mean for the very UK communities the government says it wants to help. From less affluent London boroughs to northern constituencies such as Teesside, international students, universities and their global flows of talent are a vital source of economic growth, cross-subsidising local opportunities. Any reduction to the number of international students deciding to study at British institutions will hit these regions hardest.

This piece was originally written for Times Higher Education. Read their article here.

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