Vice-Chancellors from Northern Universities have written to the Prime Minister urging him to accept the findings of the Migration Advisory Committee, which supports that the Graduate Visa Route for students should be retained.

Last week the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) published its report evaluating the Graduate Route, as part of student immigration, as commissioned by the UK Government earlier this year. The key recommendation, one of six in the report, is that the Graduate Route should be retained in its current form.

The MAC was asked to review the evidence to respond to five questions, including whether there is any abuse of the post study work route, the demographics of those using the route for employment in the UK and whether international students using the graduate route are contributing to the UK economy. The UK Government is expected to respond to the report over the coming weeks.

In the letter the Vice Chancellors say that

“Our universities are integral to the economic resilience of cities and towns who are already grappling with the significant economic disparities between the North and South of England. That North/South structural economic inequality is mitigated by the world class research, tailored support for innovation in local businesses, and valuable routes for local young people, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds, that our universities across the North provide.”

The latest analysis from Universities UK (UUK) demonstrates that, since the International  Education Strategy launched, “growth in international student recruitment to the UK has delivered a boost of more than £60 billion to the UK’s economy.

International students who find work and start businesses contribute billions of pounds in income tax, national insurance and VAT annually. They are also usually net contributors to the NHS through the NHS surcharge.

The changes that the government have already introduced – removal of student dependents’ visas and the rising costs of visas – have already had an enormous adverse impact on the numbers of students coming to the UK.

The announcement of the MAC review caused further significant reductions in international students applying for places at UK universities, with students also reporting that they do not feel welcome to study in the UK.

In the North of England, the international student cohort from the first academic year in this decade (2020/21) alone was worth £7.2billion. Universities are now reporting reductions in applications of as much as 80% in some areas and that reduction in income will have a catastrophic impact on the region’s economy.

The Universities warn that a sudden and adverse financial contraction will lead to an inevitable reduction in the capacity of our brilliant Northern Universities in terms of both teaching and research.  In turn, this will adversely impact all of our regional economies, stifling skills, innovation and productivity, and choking off the life chances of thousands of young people.


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