Foreign students to reportedly be barred from UK unless studying at top universities

The U.K. government is looking to reduce migration, which could impact international students’ ability to study in Britain.

LONDON — Foreign students wanting to study in Britain may be turned away unless they have secured a place at a “top university,” according to a report by The Times newspaper.

Ministers were allegedly discussing how to reduce flows to the U.K. after record levels of net migration were reported on Thursday. 

According to the report, there will also be restrictions on how many family members the students are able to bring into the country with them. The rules will also only apply to foreign students who aren’t already living in the U.K.

Roughly 1.1 million people arrived in the U.K. in the year to June, with around 560,000 emigrating in the same period, leaving net migration at a record 504,000 people, according to the Office for National Statistics on Thursday.

The reported plans to deter foreign students from studying in Britain seem to go against the government’s International Growth Strategy from 2019, which was designed to increase the number of international students studying in the U.K. each year to 600,000 by 2030. 

That target was reached in the 2020/21 academic year when more than 605,000 non-U.K. students enrolled in higher education, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

The strategy was originally put in place to “support the UK education sector to access global opportunities,” according to the government website.

A representative for the Home Office said there would be no comment on the “speculation” around the idea that foreign students may be prevented from entering the U.K.

It did, however, provide a statement from Interior Minister Suella Braverman, who said it was “understandable” record numbers of people travelled to the U.K. in light of the war in Ukraine, the evacuation in Afghanistan and the crackdown on rights in Hong Kong, but that the British public “rightly expect” migration to be reduced over time.

“This level of migration has put pressure on accommodation and housing supply, health, education and other public services. We must ensure we have a sustainable, balanced and controlled approach which is why we continue to keep our immigration policies under review,” Braverman said in the statement.

“My priority remains tackling the rise in dangerous and illegal crossings and stopping the abuse of our system. It is vital we restore public confidence and take back control of our borders,” she wrote.

The Conservative government has launched a series of initiatives after pledging to reduce net migration to the U.K. in its 2019 manifesto, including its controversial plans to deport migrants to Rwanda and deals with France to target small boat crossings.

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