London, Nov 26, 2022: UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will be considering "all options", including reducing the number of foreign students, in his bid to bring down the rising net migration in the United Kingdom, according to a report by the BBC.
Mr Sunak will be looking into imposing curbs on foreign students pursuing so-called "low quality" degrees and bringing in dependents, the report said, quoting a Downing Street spokesperson. The spokesperson did not, however, define what is a "low quality" degree.
The UK government’s concerns for rising migration have been set off by the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures this week that showed a huge jump in the number of migrants. Net migration to the UK rose from 173,000 in 2021, to 504,000 this year - an increase of 331,000.
International students, especially Indians who took over the Chinese for the first time to make up the majority of student visas, were a big contributor to this spike.
"We’re considering all options to make sure the immigration system is delivering. The prime minister is fully committed to bringing overall numbers down," Mr Sunak’s spokesman had said on Friday.
But controlling the number of migrants by restricting the number of foreign students presents a tricky task. British universities lean on higher fees from international students to offset the money, they lose by charging British students a lower fee, with some universities even risking bankruptcy if restrictions were imposed on so-called low-quality degrees, the report said.
An Indian community-led students’ organisation on Friday urged the government to remove international students from the country’s immigration statistics. "Students who are in the UK temporarily, should not be counted as migrants. International students, of which Indians are the biggest cohort, bring a net revenue of GBP 30 billion into the British economy," said Sanam Arora, Chair of National Indian Students and Alumni Union (NISAU) UK.
The Sunak government has promised to cut net migration in the UK with India-origin Home Secretary Suella Braverman earlier complaining about Indian students overstaying in the country. "I have concerns about having an open borders migration policy with India because I don’t think that’s what people voted for with Brexit. Look at migration in this country - the largest group of people who overstay are Indian migrants," she had said.