Rishi Sunak considers restrictions on foreign students after surge in immigration

Students sit at tables

Number 10 is looking for ways to bring numbers down after numbers coming to the UK soar (Picture: Getty)

Rishi Sunak plans to target foreign students after immigration surges to record high.

The government is considering introducing new restrictions on “low quality” degrees and barring foreign applicants from bringing family members to the UK.

Curbs being considered by Downing Street could result in international students being banned unless they are given access to a top-tier university.

The move was informed after it emerged that net immigration had hit a new high, 12 years after David Cameron vowed to bring the figure down to “tens of thousands”.

It is estimated that around 504,000 more people moved to the UK than left in the 12 months to June 2022, a sharp increase from 173,000 in the year to June 2021.

People arriving on study visas accounted for the largest proportion of long-term non-EU immigration, at 277,000 or 39% of the total, according to the Office for National Statistics.

After a few years of lower numbers caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a significant increase in students coming to the UK.

The ONS said “unique” factors such as visa regimes for citizens of Ukraine and Hong Kong also contributed to the increase.

In the autumn budget released earlier this month, the government said it expected immigration levels to return to pre-pandemic levels once “these temporary factors ease over time”.

University of St Andrews Scotland

Plans could include restricting admissions to top-tier universities (Picture: Getty)

The Prime Minister’s spokesman said he was “fully committed” to reducing immigration, blaming “unprecedented and unique circumstances” for the surge.

They added: “We are considering all options to ensure that the immigration system works, and that includes looking at the problem of dependent students and substandard degrees.”

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has previously complained that foreign students are “bringing family members who can piggyback their student visas” and “frankly supporting substandard courses in inadequate facilities”.

The move could potentially face opposition within the Department of Education, which would face funding problems if the number were to be limited.

Foreign students, who pay higher fees than domestic applicants, have become a major source of funding for universities, and faculty budgets are under pressure from inflation and tax cuts by the Treasury.

Rishi Sunak gives a speech

Plans being considered by Rishi Sunak could face fierce opposition within Whitehall (Image: EPA)

There could also be tensions with the Treasury, which will oppose any immigration changes that risk stifling growth.

Despite a higher rate of migration to the UK since Brexit, the UK faces skills and labor shortages across a range of sectors.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt last week confirmed Britain was entering a recession and insisted immigration was needed to boost growth.

He said: “It takes a long-term plan if we are to reduce migration in a way that doesn’t hurt the economy.

“We recognize that we will need migration in the coming years – this will be very important for the economy.”

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https://metro.co.uk/2022/11/25/rishi-sunak-mulling-curbs-on-overseas-students-after-immigration-rise-17825891/ Rishi Sunak considers restrictions on foreign students after surge in immigration

Justin Scacco

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