UK visa reforms could force hundreds of foreign graduates to exit immediately

Has the appeal of a British education lost its shine and are UK universities really facing the threat of closure? After a massive drop in foreign student enrolment, Carina Kamel investigates from London.

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Around 700,000 foreign students in the UK are at the risk of having to leave the country immediately after graduation because of government considerations to overhaul the visa scheme.

The current scheme allows graduates to live and work in the UK for a few years after completing their studies, but this could change, impacting students like Alessandra Abouzahr.

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The Lebanese American who studies at the London Business School (LBS) originally arrived in the UK on a work visa and later switched to a student visa when she started her MBA on the basis that she could stay for a few years post-graduation.

However, this is no longer guaranteed.

While attending a school like LBS is a great entry point in general into the London job market, further visa restrictions could mean less opportunities for foreigners from across the world, Abouzahr said.

Restrictions on foreign students have already been tightened when the government banned them from bringing any family members with them unless they are studying for a PHD.

According to data from Universities UK, which represents 73 universities, the number of foreign students enrolled at UK universities dropped by 44 percent this January.

As university finances rely heavily on foreign students, who pay significantly higher fees than British citizens, the higher education sector is also facing a funding crisis.

This prompted an independent regulator office for students to warn that 40 percent of universities will end the year in financial deficit.

“Foreign students in our view are incredibly important. They bring really obvious advantages such as diversity, different educational systems, academic excellence. They absolutely support economy,” Diana Morant, Head of School and University Consultancy, William Clarence said.

Earlier this month, a government commissioned report said Britain should avoid further restricting international student numbers or some universities may collapse.

The Migration Advisory Committee, an independent body which gives the government advice, said the number of international postgraduate students paying deposits to study at British universities this September had dropped by 63 percent, compared with the previous year, after the government put restrictions on education visas.

Britain boasts some of the most famous and sought after universities in the world, from Oxford and Cambridge to Imperial College London. Business leaders argue that they boost innovation, increase creativity and provide a form of soft power, as many world leaders have studied at British colleges.

The government commissioned the review after concerns that the graduate visa route was being abused.

With Reuters

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