“It’s a sector we should be very proud of,” Keegan said in an interview with Financial Times. “It’s world class, a great advertisement for our country.”
Keegan said in the publication that she wants to build on the UK’s export market in university education and grow education export earnings from around £26bn to £35bn by 2030.
“We have a strategy that focuses a lot on revenue growth,” Keegan said.
Keegan’s comments come amid reports that Home Secretary Suella Braverman will propose cutting the length of time international students can stay and work in the UK after graduation from two years to six months – a move already opposed by the Department for Education.
Ian Crichton, chief executive of the Study Group, said Pie that Keegan’s expression of support is “significant”.
“After a period of unhelpful uncertainty fueled by political concerns over immigration statistics, she has made it abundantly clear that – while she will work with the Home Secretary to tackle any abuse – international education is a public good and an area of vital opportunity for the UK. in the future,” Crichton said.
“It’s an important signal from a senior member of the Cabinet who is understood and supported by many other parts of the government.”
Keegan and Braverman reportedly met last week to discuss international student numbers and the ability of students on “low value” courses to bring dependents to the UK, government officials said.
In November 2022, The PIE reported on UK university stakeholders’ concerns about their ability to provide for and support international students and their families due to rising dependents.
Crichton highlighted the dangers of describing university courses as “low value”, stressing that all courses are designed to meet quality standards set by the regulator.
“I studied history at Aberdeen, but it would be absolutely wrong to compare a technical or vocational qualification from a modern university as less valuable because of the level of starting salary of a graduate,” Crichton said.
Regarding dependents, Crichton recalled, as many in the sector have already done, that only graduate students are eligible to bring dependents.
“We should consider who and what we stand to lose”
“We should consider who and what we stand to lose before considering policy changes, no matter how headline-grabbing,” he said.
According to Crichton, offering globally competitive education and post-graduation employment opportunities is vital to a thriving society, an economy with links that will help the UK “play a significant role in identifying the shared solutions that will be needed to build a sustainable, prosperous and peaceful society”.
“If we miss this chance, we will be neglecting one of our most important assets and opportunities for our country,” he said.
Keegan is reported to have agreed to help the Home Office crack down on abuses in the system and stated in the publication her aims to ensure a high quality course offering for both UK and international students.
This was recently announced by the Ministry of the Interior Times that Indian students are taking advantage of a loophole in asylum rules that allows asylum seekers to study in the UK while paying domestic fees rather than higher international fees.
About 250 Indian migrants have crossed the canal in small boats this year, a fifth of the 1,180 who have crossed in total this year, the publication said.
Meanwhile, University of Birmingham MP and Chancellor Lord Karan Bilimoria has asked Parliament for assurances that there will be no reduction in the number of international students once the UK’s target of 600,000 international students is reached.
On February 10, he also asked for confirmation that the two-year work visa would be maintained, not reduced, and raised concerns about how data on international students is being collected.
“Why does the government continue to include international students in net migration figures? They should be excluded as our competing countries,” Bilimoria said.
Yesterday in Parliament I asked the Government to continue to increase the number of international students and to exclude international students from the net migration figures.@UUKIntl @UKCISA @APPGIS @unibirmingham @NISAU_UK @RussellGroup pic.twitter.com/LWX5JiUN4P
— Lord Karan Bilimoria (@Lord_Bilimoria) February 10, 2023
“It is vital that international education is not treated as a political football,” Crichton said.
“It’s too important for the country and our place in the world for that. We must remember that welcoming talented young people to study with us and become a source of skills and knowledge at our world-class universities is a privilege we cannot take for granted.”