UK Universities Face Financial Crisis as Foreign Student Enrollment Plummets, Warns Universities UK Chief

Hostile Policies and Rhetoric Blamed for Decline

Large numbers of UK universities are at risk of falling into financial deficit, with the chief executive of Universities UK, Vivienne Stern, attributing the decline to the hostile rhetoric and immigration policies of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government.

Stern warns of a “serious overcorrection” due to policies deterring international students.

Top Universities Forced to Relax Entry Requirements

Notably, prestigious institutions like York, a member of the elite Russell Group, are compelled to ease entry requirements to maintain overseas student numbers.

Stern emphasizes the need for the government to be cautious to avoid a significant overcorrection in policies.

Overreliance on Non-EU Students and Frozen Tuition Fees

UK universities, facing a decade-long freeze on domestic tuition fees at £9,250, increasingly depend on non-EU students, contributing nearly 20% of sector income.

However, recent policy moves have softened enrollment numbers, especially from key countries like Nigeria and India.

Concerns Over Sharp Decline in International Students

University insiders express concern as data reveals a substantial decline in international student enrollments in January 2024, well below projections.

Stern warns that the sector has been “spooked” by this trend, urging the government to reconsider its policies.

Policy Changes and Government’s Stance

The government’s stance on immigration policies, including restricting family members for international graduate students and reviewing the “graduate route,” has adversely impacted international student confidence.

Reports indicate a 37% decrease in deposit payments, indicating a significant drop in interest.

Perfect Storm: Falling Numbers, Frozen Fees, and Rising Costs

Analysis by PwC for Universities UK reveals a perfect storm for the sector, combining falling international student numbers, frozen tuition fees, rising staff wage bills, and a softening in UK student numbers.

Stern emphasizes the urgency for the government to recognize the risk to a sector contributing £71bn to the UK economy annually.

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