UK’s desire to decrease immigration and Canada’s policy of welcoming international students are affecting their student numbers, Fiachra Johnston, reports.
The UK Office of National Statistics has reported that since 1992, the number of students in the UK has almost doubled to 1.8 million. Of those, 60,000 are international students. While this might seem like a drop in the ocean, these students bring in more than £400m in revenue, while British universities receive an additional £500m in EU funding. These 60,000 students make up approximately £1bn in annual revenue.
It’s no wonder then, that officials are worried about this group. This year alone, applications to UK schools dropped by 5%, or about 2,500 – potentially on foot of the ruling Conservative Party’s commitment to reduce inward migration following the British exit from the European Union.
In July of this year, the UK government’s statistics watchdog warned that figures relating to the number of foreign students overstaying their visas were “potentially misleading.” Political demands for a review and overhaul of the student visa system followed the publication of these figures. As Home Secretary at the time, Theresa May had previously supported measures which would clamp down on foreign students studying in the UK, despite the boon to Universities and the Treasury.
However, it is not just a loss of foreign students that seems to be the issue. Across the pond, in Canada, there has been a large increase in foreign university entrants over the past few years, particularly after the US Election in 2016. According to Richard Levin, university registrar at University of Toronto, speaking to CBC, “Foreign students now make up 25% of the incoming class at U of T.” This doesn’t stop at university level, as Toronto high schools have reported a growth of 5 to 10%, or around two thousand new foreign students per year.
Students from outside North America are also increasingly choosing Canada over the USA. Cheaper tuition, a more stable political climate, and a fear of gun crime have all been cited as potential reasons for the rising popularity of Canada’s universities.
Canada, which boasts four universities in the QS World University Rankings, now offers pathways to citizenship for foreign nationals who graduate there. An aging population, declining birthrate, and the promise of shoring-up additional tax revenue has prompted the Government to reshape Canadian demographics.
This is in stark contrast to the British government’s stance on the arrival of foreign students – a policy choice that May’s administration may come to regret. Universities in the UK are continuously searching for reasons to raise their tuition fees, especially since the depreciation of the pound.
Currently, British universities are allowed to make annual fee increases linked to inflation, but under legislation passed last April and coming into effect in 2020, universities will be only be allowed to raise fees if there is an a link to quality improvements. Fees across Britain increased to £9,250 this year.