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Non-EU students fear “Britain is closed for business”, but is this true? | Immigration Matters

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The immigration cap is deterring foreign students from applying, says Universities UK head Steve Smith, George Eaton of the New Statesman reports. He said:

I recently spent an enjoyable afternoon interviewing the head of Universities UK, Steve Smith, about the future of higher education. The highlights of the interview published below.

The immigration cap is deterring foreign students

As a result of the coalition’s cap on immigration, Smith told me, other countries fear that Britain is “closed for business”.

“On every single international visit I’ve been on this year it’s been the only issue that’s been discussed,” he said. “I did a big conference at the British Council in Hong Kong, I was with Clegg in Brazil. In both those meetings the question was: “Is Britain closed for business?”… Although we won, the damage inflicted by what was said was significant.”

George Osborne boasted in his Budget speech that Britain was now “open for business”. Not all of his intended audience, it seems, agreed with him.

The government will bail out universities

Under the Willetts’ model, money will follow the student, meaning that some universities dramatically expand, while others shrink. Is it conceivable, I asked Smith, that some institutions will go bankrupt? “To be candid, ministers from all parties talk about the rigours of the market, my experience is that they never live up to it in practice.” In some communities, he pointed out, the university is one of the largest, if not the largest, net contributors to the economy.

“I don’t think they’ll let institutions go bankrupt because I think they’ll work out what it would mean for the local economy.” Like the banks, the universities, it appears, are too big to fail.

The Scottish problem: “an anomaly that can’t stand”

Unlike their English counterparts, Scottish students continue to enjoy free higher education, courtesy of Alex Salmond’s SNP administration. However, while Scottish universities are legally obliged to also offer free entrance to European Union students a loophole means that they are able to charge English students fees of up to £9,000 a year. Does Smith think the UK government should intervene?

“That announcement shocked me,” he said. “They [the SNP] had made such principled statements in the past about how iniquitous fees were and then they announced that they were going to allow institutions to charge £9,000.” He added: “I suspect the government will do something … It does seem very odd to me that someone can come from France and get the same terms as someone in Scotland but if they come from England they pay £9,000. That seems to me an anomaly that can’t stand in the long-run.” Source: New Statesman.

The recent Tier 4 visa changes were slammed last week by MP’s on the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee who said the measures would cost the UK economy £3.6 billion

The effects of falling student numbers are by no means isolated to private colleges. UK Universities are also experiencing a steep fall in foreign student numbers and with the combined effect of the UK local student fees hike some could even face closure or downsizing. 

As the number of Tier 4 international students applying to come to the UK falls leading healthcare colleges and universities are cutting fees or offering generous ‘bursaries’ or discounts. 

But be careful which college you choose, a spokesman from UK University Services (UKUS) warned. UKUS are a free student placement provider based in London.

A number of colleges are closing due to various pressures on their business. Whilst its easy to just pick a college out on the internet or through an overseas based agency, you don’t really know what the establishment is like until you have visited it.

UKUS staff personally visits every provider college or University to ensure a high quality of teaching and stability of service.

Immigration Matters receives a number emails every week from overseas students who have paid their deposits only to later find that the college have been suspended or closed down.

There will always be changes to the Immigration Rules in any country and Britain is no exception. However, the UK is not closed for business.

Britain is the second most popular destination for international students with around 300,000 coming here last year adding £40 billion to our economy.

The UK is also a trading nation and the points based immigration system will always allow people to come and go.

See also:

Colleges and Universities discount fees to attract more Tier 4 students

Small colleges could gain UK University status in student market shake up

Student visa clampdown will cost UK economy £3.6 billion, MPs claim

How to avoid the pitfalls when employing migrant workers

MPs warn that tougher student visa rules will damage Universities

Pre Tier 4 students in the UK under the Immigration Rules that were in place before 31 March 2009

New Tier 4 student visa rules now in force

If you need any immigration advice or help with Sponsorship or Work Permits, Visa, ILR/Settlement, Citizenship, dependant visa or an appeal against a refusal please email: or visit

Looking for a college or University or need advice?

UKUS is a free University and College Admissions and advice service based in London, UK. Students interested in studying abroad can complete the Online UKUS Registration Form for more details.

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