Statement on student visas research

Saturday 12 March 2011

The following is the British Council's response to claims by Migration Watch about the British Council's recent research on the possible impact of UK student visa policy.

  1. The research is independent, conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit on behalf of the British Council.
  2. Just under a third of our revenue comes from the UK Government, the rest is earned from other sources. 
  3. It is wrong to call on us to publish the report - in fact the report was published on Feb 9th, and is available for free download to anyone in the UK who is registered/registers with our Internationalising Higher Education website http://ihe.britishcouncil.org/.
  4. We have always been clear that we support the UK government's intention to attract genuine students to the UK, and prevent 'bogus' students from studying in the UK. We have long worked with the UK government around the world towards that aim and continue to do so. The independent evidence clearly demonstrates that a tighter visa system can be a factor in discouraging genuine students. We are concerned therefore that if the impression is created by visa changes that the UK is 'closed for business', then genuine students might find competitor countries more attractive. Education exports were worth around £14.1bn to the UK economy in 2008-9 (BIS, 2011), and so if fewer genuine students come that would clearly have a negative short and long-term academic and economic impact on the UK.

Dr Jo Beall, the British Council's director of education and society, said:

"The British Council completely backs the government's intention to attract genuine students who make a huge economic and academic contribution to Britain, so we feel obliged to point out when independent evidence suggests there's a risk that current policy may mean the UK loses out to our competitors. We want to help government combat that and universities to attract the brightest and best students and researchers".

For more information, please contact Tim Sowula, Senior Press Officer, British Council on +44 207 389 4871