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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. ​

Briefing front cover

Parliamentary briefing: Immigration Bill - Lords’ Second Reading

10 February 2014
Universities UK is concerned about provisions in the Immigration Bill.

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

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

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)

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)

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

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

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



Further developments on student migration data

24 August 2017
As the Home Office and Office for National Statistics release new migration data, UUK's Eleanor Jubb analyses the implications for the higher education sector.

Government’s use of student migration data ‘potentially misleading’

27 July 2017
UUK's Eleanor Jubb considers the report by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) which says that the UK government's use of student migration data is 'potentially misleading'


Twenty three universities join student visa pilot

18 December 2017
Universities UK commented today on the news that the Home Office is to extend the scheme which streamlines the process for international Masters students wanting to study in the UK.

Europe’s university leaders call for urgent Brexit clarification

25 October 2017
​Leaders of European higher education bodies have signed a statement calling on governments across Europe to speed up Brexit negotiations so talks can begin over the future of European research, collaboration, and student mobility.

The team

Jo Attwooll

Jo Attwooll

Programme Manager
Universities UK