Their annual contribution of £35 billion to the British economy notwithstanding, the Rishi Sunak-led government is considering stopping foreign students from bringing their spouses and children along with them while coming to the United Kingdom for study.
There is a caveat however: those coming for “high-value” degrees will be exempted from this new policy.
According to The Times on Friday, the high-value courses are science, mathematics, and engineering, and as such, international students granted visas to study these courses can relocate to the UK with their families.
The report disclosed that the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, are considering the policy over the concerns that statistics of family members joining foreign students have risen to almost eight times.
Currently, the UK permits spouses and parents of any foreign student to travel with them on the basis of a valid student visa.
It was reported that Nigerians accounted for the highest rise in the number of dependants accompanying persons with study visas in 2022.
Nigerians also accounted for the largest increase in sponsored study grants compared with 2019, increasing by 57,545 (+686%) to a record high of 65,929, making them the third largest nationality group in the latest year.
The Times reported that the new immigration numbers revealed that 490,763 students were given visas in 2022, and were accompanied by 135,788 dependants — spouses and children – which were 16,047 in 2019.
Foreign students would also be excluded from bringing families unless they are studying at a higher level, such as a master’s degree or doctoral degree, the report added.
However, universities and members of parliament from all parties criticised the proposals, pointing to research suggesting that foreign students contribute £35 billion a year to the economy.