UK Might Bar Foreign Students from ‘Low-Quality’ Courses

Concerned that the ‘graduate path’ is being used as a backdoor to a new life in the UK, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is exploring a ban on foreign students entering into poor-quality postgraduate degrees in the nation. A crackdown on colleges’ use of recruiting agencies to bring in more international students is imminent, and the prime minister is also considering plans to restrict graduate visas to the most elite programs.

There will likely be a decline in net immigration from historic highs, but it will still be far higher than the level in 2019 when the Conservatives promised to lower it. Sunak has expressed his worry that some institutions are providing postgraduate programs of little import and poor quality to international students seeking a work visa that permits them to remain in the UK for a minimum of two years after graduation. Nearly half of those graduates working on a work visa had annual incomes of less than £15,000, according to government sources citing data from HM Revenue and Customs.

Higher education institutions, which heavily rely on tuition from international students, are likely to resist any further restrictions on regulations that could lead to higher tuition costs. This potential conflict might spark opposition from top ministers in the Cabinet. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, for instance, has already suggested that the immigration regulations have been amended enough, implying that additional restrictions on student numbers are unnecessary. Gillian Keegan, the secretary of education, has also voiced her intention to fight against efforts to outlaw international students enrolled in less rigorous master’s programs.

Applications have precipitously declined since reforms implemented earlier this year, such as the prohibition of family members accompanying master’s students. Still, Sunak thinks we should do more to tighten the graduate path and invite only the “brightest and the best” to apply.