UK universities are currently grappling with a significant decline in admissions from international students, including Nigerians, due to the dependent visa ban policy. This downturn has led to a substantial drop in their revenues.
The UK Home Office, under the leadership of the then interior secretary Suella Braverman, introduced the dependant visa ban policy. This policy, effective from January 2024, restricts Nigerians and other foreigners from bringing family members with them. The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Richard Montgomery, explained that the policy aims to reduce the strain on the British economy’s housing infrastructure and manage the influx of migrants.
The 2023 Chartered Association of Business Schools (CABS) Annual Membership Survey revealed that nearly half of the UK’s business schools are missing their non-EU recruitment targets this year. The survey indicated a significant variation in non-EU international enrolments, with postgraduate levels being more affected than undergraduate levels.
The survey also noted that while there were increases in enrolments from countries like India, Pakistan, and Ghana, the most notable declines were from China and Nigeria. This trend suggests a reversal in the growth of recruitment from these key countries in recent years.
As a result of the UK’s dependent visa ban, international students, particularly Nigerians and Chinese, are increasingly turning to Canadian and Australian universities, which are now seen as more immigrant-friendly destinations. The British government’s decision to prevent international students from bringing dependants, unless they are in postgraduate programmes with a research focus, was described as the “single biggest tightening measure a government has ever done.”
The CABS survey respondents anticipate that MBA programmes will be most affected by this policy, as MBA students are often older and wish to bring their families. Many business schools are now reassessing their strategies, including shifting to online delivery for MBA and Master’s programmes and focusing on growing undergraduate international student numbers. Competitor countries like Australia and Canada are already benefiting from the UK’s decision.
The financial outlook for UK universities is weakening, with a significant decrease in expected income increases and an increase in the number of business schools expecting a decrease in income.
The recent policy changes by the UK government, specifically the dependent visa ban, have led to a noticeable shift in the landscape of international education. This shift is not just a matter of policy but also reflects the changing preferences and needs of international students, particularly from countries like Nigeria.
The decision to restrict dependants for international students is a double-edged sword. While it aims to manage the inflow of migrants and reduce the burden on the UK’s housing infrastructure, it also overlooks the broader implications for the education sector. The significant drop in enrolment from key countries like Nigeria and China is a clear indicator that students value the opportunity to bring their families. This is especially true for postgraduate students, who are often at a stage in their lives where family considerations are paramount.
The shift in preference towards countries like Canada and Australia, which are perceived as more immigrant-friendly, highlights the importance of holistic policies that consider the needs of international students. These students are not just seeking education; they are also looking for opportunities to build a life, often with their families. The UK’s policy, therefore, risks not only a decline in university revenues but also a long-term impact on its reputation as a welcoming destination for international education.
We believe that the UK needs to reconsider its approach and find a balance that addresses its internal concerns while remaining attractive to international students. The current trend, if it continues, could lead to a significant reshaping of the global education landscape, with countries like Canada and Australia potentially becoming the new hubs for international education.
The UK’s dependent visa ban policy serves as a reminder of the delicate balance between national policies and global education trends. The UK must reassess its strategy in light of these changes and strive to maintain its position as a leading destination for international students.
Did You Know?
- Nigeria’s Educational Migration: A significant number of Nigerian students choose to study abroad, with the UK, Canada, and Australia being popular destinations.
- Impact of Visa Policies: Visa policies can greatly influence international students’ choice of study destination.
- UK’s International Student Population: The UK has traditionally been one of the top destinations for international students, offering a wide range of educational opportunities.
- Canada’s Immigration Policies: Canada is known for its friendly immigration policies, making it an attractive destination for international students and their families.
- Global Education Market: The global education market is highly competitive, with countries vying to attract international students for both educational excellence and economic benefits.