University chief Sir Christopher Snowden claims Government immigration policy puts off foreign students

Research shows the first fall in overseas recruitment for almost three decades

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The Independent Online

The leader of Britain’s university vice-chancellors is to deliver a stark warning over the numbers of international students opting to study in the UK.

Professor Sir Christopher Snowden, president of Universities UK, will warn that the Government’s clampdown on immigration has created a “strong, adverse perception” to foreign students of the reception they will receive in the UK.

Both undergraduate and postgraduate courses have report a serious decline in enrolments from India and Pakistan. The slump is most marked at postgraduate level where Indian enrolments are 51 per cent down, with 7,000 fewer recruits, while Pakistani enrolments have fallen by 49 per cent or 1,400.

Earlier this year, research from the Higher Education Funding Council for England showed the first fall in overseas recruitment for almost three decades with numbers down one per cent.

In his speech to the Universities UK conference this afternoon, Professor Snowden will say: “UK degrees are recognised worldwide and right now we are education students from some of the fastest growing economies, including India, China Brazil and Nigeria.

“Recently, however, this positive contribution has been overshadowed by changes to the student visa and immigration regime, creating a strong adverse perception in many countries and - after a period of strong growth - the decline in numbers of international students from some parts of the world is a serious concern.

“We need a change in Government immigration policy to realise the fantastic opportunity this country has in continuing to attract the brightest and the best international students and staff to our shores.”

Vice-chancellors have been insisting that international students should be omitted from the net migration figures, as many of them do not intend to settle in the UK at the end of their degree courses. Stricter rules governing the issuing of visas have also been introduced over the past two years.

Professor Snowden will also call for the next Government to prioritise closing the gap between the UK’s investment in research and other competitor nation and introducing “a long-term and sustainable system of funding” for universities rather than reviewing the position every few years.

“If the UK’s public investment in research continues to lag behind that of our competitors, the UK will struggle to remain a world-leading research power,” he will add. “We cannot be complacent, we need to act now.”

Professor Snowden will argue that giving priority to these three issues is vital if a university sector “which contributes billions to the economy, creates thousands of jobs and keeps Britain at the forefront of the global race” is to be sustained.