Most of the universities in the United Kingdom have been experiencing reduced admissions from international students including Nigerians over the dependant visa ban policy.
UK’s Dependant visa ban
Recall that the UK Home Office under the sacked interior secretary Suella Braverman introduced the dependant visa ban policy that restricted Nigerians and other migrants from bringing family members with them starting from January 2024.
The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Richard Montgomery, while speaking on the policy in June said it was implemented to avoid overburdening the British economy’s s housing infrastructure and to control the inflow of migrants.
Recounting the repercussions of the policy, the universities and business schools said they cannot meet the admission targets for the year 2024, according to a report by 023 Chartered Association of Business Schools (CABS) Annual Membership Survey.
“In what appears to be an early signal of the impact of an important change to UK visa policy, nearly half (44%) of the country’s business schools are reporting that they will miss their non-EU recruitment targets this year,” the report said.
“When reporting on performance against non-EU recruitment targets for the 2023/24 academic year, nearly three in ten responding institutions (29%) said they had either significantly or moderately exceeded their goal. Another 27% said they had met their recruitment target.
“But the remaining 44% said that they fell short of their recruitment goals, of which 22% reported being “significantly below” their target enrolment.
“The survey report adds: ‘There is significant variation in the results by level of study for non-EU international enrolments, as at undergraduate level nearly half of the schools either significantly or moderately exceeded target compared to one-third of schools at postgraduate level.
“At postgraduate level nearly 50% of schools reported recruitment that was either significantly or moderately below target for non-EU international students, compared to 21% at undergraduate level.’”
It added, “Survey respondents reported that they were seeing some of the most significant increases in non-EU enrolment from India, Pakistan, and Ghana. “All these countries had more business schools seeing increases in enrolments for the new academic year than decreases,” notes the report. “Growth in enrolments from Nepal and Saudi Arabia were also cited by several schools. None of the schools cited decreases in enrolments from Nepal, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.”
Nigerian and Chinese foreign students
Affected by the dependant visa restriction policy, the report disclosed that Nigerians and Chinese have reduced their admissions to British universities, as it said, “the most frequently cited countries for declining enrolments were China and Nigeria, which could suggest a reversal in the growth in recruitment from these key countries in recent years.
Canada and Australia benefitting from UK’s dependant visa ban
The report further said that the number of international students seeking admission to study Master in Business Administration (MBA) has reduced in number, especially from Nigerians and Chinese. It further said these foreign students have turned to Canadian and Australian universities which are now migrant-friendly destinations.
In May 2023, the British government announced that international students would be prevented from bringing dependants with them as of January 2024 (unless students are in postgraduate programmes with a research focus).
The Home Office said at the time that almost half a million student visas were issued in 2022 while the number of dependants of overseas students has increased by 750% since 2019, to 136,000 people. The move to limit accompanying dependents was explicitly done to curb net migration, and was described by the Home Secretary as the “single biggest tightening measure a government has ever done.”
The vast majority of respondents to the CABS survey said that they expect to see negative impacts on non-EU enrolment arising from the policy.
According to the report, “It is anticipated that enrolments for MBA programmes will be most affected as MBA students tend to be older and often wish to bring their family with them. Other post-experience programmes, such as Executive Education programmes sponsored by a company, are also expected to be more adversely impacted due to students being more likely to have children.
“Many [respondents] mentioned that the change has prompted them to reassess their school’s strategy which includes shifting MBAs and Master’s programmes to online delivery if not already offered in this mode, and focusing on growing international student numbers at an undergraduate level instead. There is also a sense that the recruitment of business schools in competitor countries such as Australia and Canada is already benefitting from the UK’s decision to ban visas for dependents of students.”
The revenue impact
The survey found overall that UK universities remain highly dependent on business school tuition revenue, and that, with the downward pressure on non-EU enrolments for this year in particular, the financial outlook for the year ahead is weakening.
“While 28% and 49% of respondents in 2022 stated that they expected significant and moderate increases in income respectively, these numbers have fallen to 9% and 36% in this year’s edition of the survey. 30% of business schools expect a decrease in income compared to only 2% in last year’s survey,” it added.