International business students turned off by visa policy impacting UK universities

Marylebone Campus, University of Westminster 15.1.2013

The Chartered ABS has today published a new report which reveals the impact the Government’s student visa policy is having on universities and the economy. The report focuses on the recruitment trends of international students to the most popular course at university – business studies. International students studying business contribute £2.4 billion to universities and the UK economy but the latest figures published today, reveal they are in decline. Together with our members we are calling on the Government to change the policy on student visas to make Britain a more attractive place to study again.

One third of all international students in UK universities are studying in a business school. However, last year’s intake from outside the EU fell sharply by 8.6% and this poses a risk to universities as the income made in business schools often subsidises other subjects and faculties which universities run at a loss. These talented students also help create a diverse global experience on campus and as future entrepreneurs and business leaders they provide immeasurable value to the UK.

The issue is even more acute on postgraduate taught programmes, such as the MBA, where 52% of students are international. With course fees ranging from £10,000-60,000 these students represent a highly valuable share of income derived from student fees. We estimate that these students alone are worth over half a billion pounds per year in fees to universities, and a total of £1.1 billion to the economy when off-campus expenditure is factored in.

University courses in business and administration are hugely popular in the UK and business schools teach nearly one-fifth of all university students. The UK has excellent business schools, with 15 ranked in the world’s top 100 by the FT Global MBA rankings. Undergraduates can expect above average earnings compared to other subjects whilst MBA graduates from the UK’s highest ranked business schools can earn an average of £127,000 per year three years after graduating, equivalent to a 90% increase in their salary. Despite this, business school leaders interviewed for this new report are witnessing prospective international students being turned off by Britain’s post-study work restrictions and choosing other countries to study instead.

One business school dean said “the UK as a destination has become less attractive than the US, Canada or Australia - this is largely the consequence of post-study work visa issues.” Another commented that “increased forecasts for student recruitment to the UK is la la land.”

The report 'UK business schools and international student recruitment: Trends, challenges and the case for change' is available to read here.

Professor Simon Collinson, Chair, Chartered Association of Business Schools said: “In 2014/15 we experienced the sharpest decline of international students starting degree programmes in UK business schools. This report shows how this is damaging, not just for business schools and the universities that rely on their income, but in terms of the jobs and communities beyond our universities that are supported by the income from international students. Although our business schools remain competitive and our universities are amongst the best in world, international students are choosing other countries for their education because our immigration regulations make this country difficult, or unattractive, to enter.

“Not only are we turning away investment, we are turning away international talent. These skilled, entrepreneurial and globally mobile students are the leaders of tomorrow and the UK’s immigration policies should be designed to attract them so that our universities and our economy can benefit from the diversity and added value they bring.”

The report has received support from key university and business bodies including the CBI, Universities UK and the UK India Business Council.

Neil Carberry, Director - Employment, Skills & Public Services, CBI said: “Educating the world’s top talent is a growth opportunity for the UK that we must capitalise on. Encouraging international students to study at our leading business schools and universities has benefits for local economies and in building our global links. It is also in our national interest to encourage the brightest and best to stay and work here where they have skills that are not readily available within the domestic labour market. We must ensure we harness the strengths of international students, including by developing a robust visa system which is not a barrier to studying at our great business schools.”

Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive, Universities UK said: “Despite growing demand for quality higher education across the world, international recruitment figures in the UK over the last few years have not done justice to the world-class reputation of the UK’s universities and business schools. At the same time, competitor countries have seen rises in international student numbers.

“International students and staff make an enormous contribution to the UK, academically, culturally and economically. If the UK wants to fulfil its potential in this growth area, it must present a welcoming climate for genuine international students and academics and ensure that visa and immigration rules are proportionate and communicated appropriately.”

Richard Heald, CEO, UK India Business Council said: “The UK has long been a major destination for the large numbers of Indian students who study overseas. These highly skilled individuals make a significant contribution to the finances of UK higher education institutions, especially those offering business related postgraduate courses. The decline in the numbers of these students should be a cause for concern and any link to changes in the conditions around post study work visas, whether perceived or otherwise, should be addressed as a matter of some urgency. The experiences of Indian students in the UK is an important facet of the trade and investment relations between the two countries.”