The financial situation of many UK universities is worsening due to the sharp drop in international students after the government banned them from bringing their family members to the country. The ban, which took effect in January 2024, only exempts postgraduate research or government-funded scholarship students.
The head of Universities UK, Vivienne Stern, warned that the government’s immigration policies were discouraging overseas students from choosing Britain as their study destination. She said the sector could face a “serious overcorrection” if the trend continued.
International students are a vital source of income for UK universities, as they pay higher fees than domestic students. According to a PwC analysis, if the number of international students stopped growing in the 2024-25 academic year, more than a quarter of universities would be in deficit. If the number declined by 13 to 18 per cent, then 80 per cent of universities would be in the red.
Some of the top universities, such as York, have already lowered their entry requirements to attract more overseas students. However, the government has defended its policy as a way to reduce migration and deliver for the British people. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak highlighted the changes in a post on X (formerly Twitter) in January.