UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's plan to restrict the entry of foreign students to curb increasing migration is being seen as a setback for universities and the UK economy in general by migration and education advisors.
According to media reports, Sunak is considering curbs on foreign students taking "low quality" degrees and bringing dependents.
The UK Prime Minister's spokesman said the idea was being considered after official figures showed net migration to the UK had climbed to a record half a million, the reports said.
The Prime Minister's plans to bring down foreign student numbers could include restricting admissions to top universities, as well as restricting visas for students' dependents.
Home Secretary Suella Braverman has been quoted as saying as per media reports that foreign students have been "bringing in family members who can piggyback onto their student visa" and "propping up, frankly, substandard courses in inadequate institutions".
However, a government migration adviser warned it would bankrupt many universities. Moreover, an adviser on immigration policy has warned that some universities could go bankrupt if there is a clampdown on so-called "low-quality" degrees.
Hersha Pandya, Executive Director of UK Partner Relations of M Square Media, an education management company, has also aired her concerns over this new development.
"Firstly, it was the UK government that set a target of 600,000 international students which was met and delivered well in advance through the hard work of universities, agents, and third-party providers," Pandya said, adding that "now the UK government is once again putting international students under the spotlight when these students should never be included in the net migration statistics. The UK government must stop this yo-yo effect if it wishes to promote the country as the number one choice for international students".
Just last week, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt insisted that immigration was required to boost growth, underscoring the need for "a long-term plan if we're going to bring down migration in a way that doesn't harm the economy." Hunt said that migration would be needed "for the years ahead - that will be very important for the economy".
In the 2020-21 school year, the number of international students at UK universities totalled 605,130, up by 48,505 or 8.71 per cent from the previous year's total of 556,625 students. International students paid a total of 9.95 billion pound in tuition fees for the school year 2020-21.
According to media reports, Scotland Deputy First Minister John Swinney described the proposals as "stupid" while Education Minister Jamie Hepburn warned that the proposal would be "deeply damaging to Scotland's world-class university sector."
Moreover, the Scottish National Party has consistently praised the contribution made by foreign students and other migrants to Scotland.