Home > Policy and analysis > Immigration

Immigration

We want to see an immigration system that helps universities to attract genuine international students and highly skilled staff to study and work in the UK.

Economic impact of international students

International students and staff make a vital contribution to the UK's world-leading higher education sector.

We aim to:

  • ​secure an immigration system that enables universities to recruit and retain talented staff and students from all over the world

  • ensure there is a proportionate, fair and transparent immigration compliance regime for UK universities: one which targets abuse but welcomes genuine international (non-EU) students and staff

  • maintain the excellent international reputation of UK universities

  • protect the strength and competitiveness of UK universitie​s glo​bally 

Our work on immigration​

Our current priorities include:

  • campaigning for students to be taken out of the net migration target

  • ensuring that changes to immigration rules do not limit the ability of universities to attract and recruit world-leading researchers and teachers

  • influencing the implementation of the Conservative manifesto commitment to place more responsibility on visa sponsors whose sponsees overstay (by using exit check data)

  • seeking improvements to the current visa compliance regime

  • working with Universities UK International to promote the UK's universities around the world

Our work is informed by the UUK International Policy Network, chaired by Professor Sir Steve Smith, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Exeter.

The global impact of UK universities ​

Higher education is increasingly globalised, with growing numbers of students wanting to study a degree outside of their home country. The UK is currently the second most popular destination for international students after the United States.  

International students bring significant economic, social and cultural benefits to the UK. They also contribute significantly to postgraduate courses – particularly in science, engineering, technology and maths. Non-EU students contribute £8 billion to the UK economy – estimated to rise to £17 billion by 2025 – and enhance the diversity of university campuses. UNESCO estimates that the number of students seeking to study abroad will increase from around four million in 2010 to seven million by 2020. 

International staff also make a vital contribution to UK universities. In 2013–14, over 30,110 non-EU staff were employed in UK universities, making a vital contribution to our world-leading research base.

Our universities are world-leading. To retain this enviable position, it is vital that they remain able to recruit genuine international students and world-leading academics and researchers from around the world. ​

Parliamentary briefing: Immigration Bill - Commons’ Report Stage and Third Reading

Briefing
31 January 2014
Universities UK’s briefing for MPs for the Report Stage and Third Reading of the Immigration Bill.

Report page

Cost and benefit analysis project on immigration regulation

Report
11 July 2013
Higher Education Better Regulation Group (HEBRG) published the final report of the cost and benefit analysis project on Tier 4 student immigration regulation on 11 July 2013.

Briefing front cover

Parliamentary briefing: Impact of current immigration policy on the attractiveness of United Kingdom universities to overseas students (Lord Giddens)

Briefing
30 October 2012
This briefing covers the topic of an Oral Question asked by Lord Giddens on the impact of immigration policy on the UK's ability to continue to attract overseas students to study at its universities.

Briefing front cover

Parliamentary briefing: Oral Question – Benefits to the UK of ceasing to classify foreign university students as economic migrants (Lord Hannay of Chiswick)

Briefing
3 July 2012
This briefing covers the topic of an Oral Question asked by Lord Hannay of Chiswick, covering the potential benefits of removing students from the government's target to bring net migration to under 100,000.

Competing Globally: the impact of government immigration policy on UK universities

Speeches/Talks
29 February 2012
Review was carried out by SUMS on behalf of the Higher Education Better Regulation Group (HEBRG).

Report cover

Universities UK response to The student immigration system - a consultation

Report
11 February 2011
Universities UK strongly opposes the majority of the proposals outlined in the consultation.

Events

Blog

What the British public really think about international students

13 April 2017
Karmjit Kaur, Head of Political Affairs at Universities UK, discusses the British public's perception of international students as an asset to the UK, and explains why international students should not be included in a net migration target.

New HESA data on student numbers – our summary

12 January 2017
Eleanor Jubb, Policy Analyst at Universities UK, discusses patterns and trends from HESA's new student data release

News

Universities UK statement on the triggering of Article 50

29 March 2017
Universities UK's response to the triggering of Article 50.

Response to HESA 2015–16 student data

12 January 2017
Universities UK has responded to the latest data on students from HESA

The team

Jo Attwooll

Jo Attwooll

Programme Manager
Universities UK

Davina Foord

Davina Foord

Policy Researcher
Universities UK