UK Universities responds to comments made by Home Secretary regarding international students and dependants

Samuel Agbelusi

The UK Universities International has responded to the concerns over the rising number of international students in the UK and the number of dependents accompanying them which is undermining the government’s education grow exports to £35 billion by 2030.

UUKi is the only body that represents UK-wide universities internationally. The UUKi team focuses on supporting and developing the breadth and depth of our UK membership’s international activities.

Responding to comments made by Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, reported on 1 October 2022, Jamie Arrowsmith, Acting Director, Universities UK International, said:

‘The recent comments by the Home Secretary regarding the number of international students in the UK, and concerns over the number of dependents accompanying them, are disappointing and risk undermining the government’s own target to grow education exports to £35 billion by 2030.

In 2019, the government also set an ambition to grow the number of international students choosing to study in the UK to at least 600,000 per year. This ambition was met last year, with growth coming predominantly from countries explicitly prioritised in the strategy (including India, Nigeria and Pakistan). Far from being a problem, an increased number of international students in the UK should be seen as a resounding success for the government and is something to be celebrated.

Our research has shown that international students make a net positive contribution at least £25.9 billion per year to the UK economy and are the source of almost 70% of the UK’s education export earnings. We also know that there are many postgraduate-level courses that are only sustainable due to their popularity with international students, helping to increase choice for UK students.

While the majority of international students study at postgraduate level – and therefore tend to be older and more likely to have a spouse or dependents – the Home Office acknowledges that the vast majority of visas are for students and not their dependants. It is also important to note that international students on undergraduate programmes are not able to bring dependents with them to the UK, and those students that are eligible to do so must comply with all immigration rules, including paying the NHS surcharge up front and demonstrating that they have the necessary funds to support themselves and their families.

Now is the time to build on the UK’s leading position in international higher education. This does not mean pursuing growth at any cost – indeed, now that the government’s ambition has been met, the focus should be on fostering sustainable growth, diversifying the pool of international students, and maintaining our position as the second most popular destination behind the USA.’

BlackBox Nigeria recall that majority of students in Nigeria have resorted to leave the country and further their studies outside due to the ongoing ASUU strike.


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