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UUK and sector partners call for reform of the student visa system

The government is being challenged to back-up its commitment to boosting international student numbers with reform to the new student visa route.

Universities UK is working with five other Higher Education representative groups to speak with one voice in proposing changes which would benefit students, institutions and the Home Office.

The importance of international students, both culturally and economically is well-recognised, however currently the UK is being hampered in its attempts to maximise this benefit by a unwieldy and uncompetitive student visa regime. 

This has prompted Universities UK, Guild HE, MillionPlus, the Russell Group, University Alliance and UKCISA to jointly produce the a briefing document outlining how significant improvements could be made as the system is reviewed by government. It sets out principles for reform and also calls for specific actions to be taken across three key areas:

  • Improving the international student experience

  • Reducing the administrative burden

  • Increasing the reliability, transparency and accountability of the immigration system

Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive, Universities UK, said:

“UUK has carried out research confirming broad support among the British public for international students. The results showed a recognition of the valuable economic and social contributions they make not only to their universities, but to the communities in which they live.

“We know that the UK ranks first for satisfaction overall amongst international students studying here compared to other major destinations, but our offer to them is being held back by longstanding and uncompetitive policy barriers. It is time to correct these.  

“In any post-Brexit immigration system, the student experience should not be significantly different for international students than for UK students and we will continue to push government to ensure that this is recognised.”

Former Universities Minister Jo Johnson MP said:

“The UK will lose its world-beating position in the global higher education market if it does not improve its offer to international students. The proposals put forward in this briefing highlight a number of ways in which the Government could help make the UK a more attractive destination for international students. 

“It is essential that well-meaning measures to prevent the exploitation of student visas do not become unnecessarily burdensome on universities or put off the brightest and the best students from studying in the UK.”

Unless the actions set out in this briefing are taken, the six representative organisations are concerned about the government’s ability to meet its commitment to grow the number of international students studying in the UK annually to 600,000.  



  1. Universities UK is the collective voice of 136 universities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Its mission is to create the conditions for UK universities to be the best in the world; maximising their positive impact locally, nationally and globally. Universities UK acts on behalf of universities, represented by their heads of institution. Visit:


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