UK Universities Experience Drop in Revenue as Foreign Students Turn to Canada Due to Dependent Visa Ban

The UK government’s decision to ban international students from bringing their dependants to the country, except for those on postgraduate research programmes, has had a negative impact on the tuition revenue of UK universities.

One of the reasons for this decline is the UK’s new immigration policy, which came into effect in January 2024, that prevents international students on taught master’s courses from bringing their spouses and children with them as dependants. This policy was introduced as a temporary measure to reduce net migration, which reached a record high of 700,000 in 2023. However, many international students and their families have been deterred by this restriction, as they see studying in the UK as an opportunity to settle and work in the country after graduation.

As a result, many international students have opted for alternative destinations, such as Canada, where they can bring their dependants with them on their student visa. Canada has a more welcoming and flexible immigration system, which allows international students to stay and work in the country for up to three years after completing their studies, and to apply for permanent residency if they meet certain criteria. Canada also offers lower tuition fees and a higher quality of life than the UK, according to some international students.

According to Statistics Canada, Canadian universities and degree-granting colleges generated revenue worth around 13.3 billion Canadian dollars from tuition and other fees in 2020-21, a 13.6% increase from 2019-207. Of this amount, overseas students contributed an estimated 5.1 billion Canadian dollars, or 12.2% of total university earnings8. The number of international students in Canada increased by 8.6% in 2020-21, reaching a record high of 642,480.

The UK’s dependent visa ban has been criticized by many stakeholders in the higher education sector, who argue that it could have a severe negative impact on the UK’s economy, productivity, and reputation as a global leader in education and research. They also point out that international students bring significant cultural and academic benefits to the UK, as well as contributing to the diversity and enrichment of the student experience. Some have called for the government to reverse or revise the policy, and to adopt a more holistic and long-term approach to immigration and international education.

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