UK loses appeal with international students

By Minh Nga   May 10, 2024 | 10:02 pm PT
UK loses appeal with international students
People queue outside a vaccination center for young people and students at the Hunter Street Health Centre, amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak, in London, England, June 5, 2021. Photo by Reuters
The number of individuals applying for British study visas has reached a record low since the pandemic, according to new data for 2024.

Statistics from the U.K. government revealed that study visa applications have dropped to 34,000 in the first quarter, a decrease from 46,900 applications in 2022.

According to the country's Home Office, after new government rules banning Masters-taught students from bringing dependents came into force on Jan. 1, total dependent study visa applications have fallen from 23,800 in Q1 of 2022, to 6,700 in the first three months of this year.

Previously, British officials attributed the record high of 745,000 immigrants in 2022 partly to international students. Then, nearly 136,000 issued visas were for dependents of international students, 8.5 times more than three years before that.

In May 2023, the U.K. decided to limit this group by preventing international students from switching from a student visa to a work visa before graduation.

At the end of March this year, the country began reviewing the Graduate Route work visa program, which allows international students to stay for two years and Ph.D. researchers for three years.

Last year, the nation announced a plan to curb net migration by preventing international students from bringing family members with them while studying in the U.K., unless they are studying in postgraduate research courses, such as research-based PhDs and research-based master's programs.

International students in postgraduate courses that are not designated as research-oriented are thus not permitted to bring dependents, according to the new policy, which took effect in January.

Diana Beech, CEO of London Higher, an association of universities and colleges in London, believes that the drop in applications reflects the real impact of changes to the dependent visa, the recent increase in application fees and health surcharges, and the graduate visa review.

"It is now clear that the U.S. has overtaken us as the top preferred study destination," Beech was quoted by The Pie News.

"Unfortunately, we don't know how many of the brightest and best have been deterred from applying here as a result."

The Home Office, however, said it is necessary to wait until the peak visa application season in August and September to assess the full impact of these changes.

According to the House of Commons, there were about 680,000 international students in the country in the 2021-22 academic year.

University tuition fees for international students range from £11,400 (US$14,300) to £38,000 per year. A survey by The Guardian last year showed that revenue from international students accounted for a fifth of the income of many universities.

A survey by IDP Connect last week found that the U.S. is now the top preferred destination among over 11,500 students from 117 countries, ahead of Australia, Canada, and the U.K. for the first time.

Earlier this year, surveys by AECC and Oxford International Education Services indicated similar trends, with the former revealing that New Zealand, Germany, and the U.S. are gaining popularity, while the latter found the U.S. to be the top destination for Indian nationals.

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