Visa ban: UK varsities experience low revenue as Nigerians turn to Canada

Most of the universities in the United Kingdom have been experiencing reduced admissions from international students, including Nigerians, following the dependant visa ban policy of the British government.

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, with effect from January 2024.

The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Richard Montgomery, while speaking on the policy in June, had said it was implemented to avoid overburdening the British economy’s housing infrastructure and to control the inflow of migrants.

Recounting the repercussions of the policy, the universities and business schools said they could no longer meet the admission targets for 2024, according to a report by 023 Chartered Association of Business Schools, CABS, Annual Membership Survey.

The report said:  “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.

“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.’

“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.

“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.”

Affected by the dependant visa restriction policy, the report disclosed that Nigerians and Chinese have reduced their admissions to British universities, saying “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 the number of international students seeking admission to study Master in Business Administration, MBA, has reduced in number, especially from Nigerians and Chinese.

It said further that 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.


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Japa: Canada plans college crackdown amid foreign students pressure

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is introducing new measures to tighten standards on colleges, responding to criticism that Canada’s education sector is bringing in so many foreign students that it’s boosting pressure on housing and the labor market.

According to Bloomberg, Immigration Minister Marc Miller announced a framework on Friday that will push universities and colleges to set a higher standard for services, support and outcomes for international students, starting in time for the fall 2024 semester. 

Schools that meet the higher benchmark will get priority for the processing of student visas, Miller said, and adequate housing will be one of the criteria.

Institutions also will be required to confirm every applicant’s acceptance letter directly with the Canadian government starting December 1, he said. 

He explained that the process was designed to tackle fraud, following revelations that hundreds of Indian newcomers unknowingly arrived in Canada with fake college admissions letters. 

In the coming months, Miller’s department will also review the post-graduate work permit program and introduce reforms to ensure it meets the needs of the labor market.

The plan comes amid growing concern that Canadian educational institutions rely too much on international students as a source of funding, Bloomberg said.

Foreign students are charged an average of five times as much as Canadian students, and colleges catering to foreigners have popped up in strip malls and temporary buildings, most notably in the Toronto suburb of Brampton, Ontario where Miller made his announcement on Friday.

“We know that there has been consistent underfunding of post-secondary education, particularly by provinces, depending on the province, over the years – and institutions are smart and have adapted to that,” Miller said at a news conference. 

“That has gone through at times opportunistic fees that have been charged to international students to close a gap that is really an unnatural one and shouldn’t be the case in a country like Canada.”

Post-secondary institutions have increasingly relied on tuition fees as provincial funding as a share of revenue has declined from 42% in 2001 to 35% last year. Ontario, the country’s largest province, has also frozen tuition fees that can be charged to Canadians for the past three years. 

In 2019 to 2020, foreigners paid 37% of tuition at Canada’s universities, while in 2021 those students paid an estimated 68% of tuition at Ontario’s colleges.

Many foreign students, on the other hand, use admission to college as a pathway to gain permanent residency in Canada. While Trudeau’s government has previously mulled introducing a cap on international student visas, Miller poured cold water on that idea Friday. 

The number of foreign students in Canada has tripled in about a decade to more than 800,000 last year.

The experiences of international students are too complex for the federal government to “stomp in and pretend that it has all the solutions” in establishing a visa cap, Miller said.

Provinces have a primary role in accrediting learning institutions, he said.

“The federal government is coming forward and opening its arms to our provincial partners, territorial partners, to make sure we all do our jobs properly,” he said. “If that job can’t be done, the federal government is prepared to do it.”

Bloomberg revealed that international education contributes more than C$22 billion ($16 billion) to the Canadian economy annually – greater than Canada’s exports of auto parts, lumber or aircraft – and supports more than 200,000 jobs, according to Miller’s office. 

But the influx of foreign students has exacerbated housing shortages, leaving many without proper accommodation, and flooded labor markets in some regions where there aren’t enough jobs.

Miller’s announcement appeared aimed at private colleges and immigration consultants accused of exploiting international students for profit. He said a government investigation earlier this year identified nearly 1,550 study permit applications connected to fraudulent acceptance letters.

In most cases, the fraud was detected and the application was refused, but in about 450 cases, a permit was issued. A further review determined some were genuine students, while others were victims who unknowingly received fake admission documents, Miller said.


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