Impact of declining student immigration

Mark Smith | 12 Jun 2015 | Comments

Following the Queens Speech on 27th May 2015 it is clear that for the UK Government, immigration policy will be a significant focus for the next parliament. The subsequent detail issued by the Home Offices’ Press Office has stated that the Government will be “reforming our immigration and labour market rules, so we reduce the demand for skilled migrant labour…”

It’s probably no surprise that this announcement is important to the recruitment industry and my colleagues and I will be keeping a keen eye on how this proposed Bill could change how Atkins recruits for skilled labour. What might be more surprising is that it is a topic which will also has significant impacts within the graduate recruitment industry as this policy could have knock on implications to the international student market.

The importance of this cohort should not be underestimated, as recent admissions data from UCAS, suggests that 43% of all postgraduates enrolled in UK engineering and technology courses and 50% of those enrolled in maths, were non-EU students (source). In addition international students have been contributing more than £10 billion a year to the UK economy and with increasing numbers of young people choosing to study abroad the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills estimates that this market will have doubled from 2010 and 2015.

Yet a recent report by an ‘All-Party Parliamentary Group on Migration’ (APPG) published in February 2015 has already warned that the UK is losing foothold in this international student market.

The APPG report expresses its concern that it is the migration policies that will cause the UK to miss out on the opportunity to benefit from this growth in international study and that our competitor countries such as Australia, USA and Canada are already offering far more generous post-study work opportunities than we currently do.

Overall in 2014 the UK still remains as the second most popular student destination in the world after the United States. However it is important that we notice that our market share is slipping now and encourage the UK Government to consider this when announcing reforms.

The ability to secure post-study work opportunities following qualification is a key factor that students consider when looking at where to undertake their studies. In an industry that is already suffering the impact of a skills shortage in science, engineering, technology and maths (STEM) and where non-EU students they make up such a large proportion of this skills set in UK universities we need to make sure that UK post-study work opportunities remain competitive in a growing international student market.