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Overseas Students

Question for Department for Education

UIN 41528, tabled on 29 April 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what estimate he has made of the number of international students planning to study in the UK from September 2020; and what plans he has to mitigate the effects on the higher education sector of any loss of income resulting from any reduction in the number of international students beginning courses in September.

Answered on

13 May 2020

The government recognises that the COVID-19 outbreak will have an unparalleled impact on all elements of the global and UK economy. The higher education (HE) sector, including student recruitment, is no exception. We have been working closely with the sector to monitor the likely impacts of COVID-19 on international student numbers. We understand the COVID-19 outbreak and a possible reduction in the number of international students poses significant challenges.

In response to this and calls from the sector, on Monday 4 May, my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, announced a package of measures to stabilise university admissions this autumn and ensure sustainability in HE at a time of unprecedented uncertainty.

Temporary student number controls will be put in place for domestic and EU students for academic year 2020/21, to ensure a fair, structured distribution of students across providers. These measures mean that providers will be able to recruit students up to a temporary set level, based on provider forecasts, which allows additional growth of up to 5% in the next academic year. My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, will also have the discretion to allocate an additional 10,000 places on top of the controls, of which 5,000 will be allocated to students studying nursing or allied health courses, to ensure growing numbers that will support our vital public services. This measure will only apply to full-time, undergraduate, UK/EU domiciled students, with certain specified exemptions. These controls will not apply to international (non-EU) students.

The Office for Students (OfS), the regulator in England, will also consult on a new temporary condition of registration. The OfS’s proposed condition would prohibit registered providers from engaging in any form of conduct which, in the opinion of the OfS, could reasonably have a material negative effect on the stability and/or integrity of the English HE sector.

The government has also: reprofiled tuition fee payments, expected to be worth £2.6 billion, for providers so that they receive more cash in the first term of academic year 2020/21; announced £100 million of public funding will be brought forward to the current academic year to help protect vital university research activities in England; and, confirmed providers are eligible to apply for the government financial support schemes estimated by the OfS to be worth at least £700 million to the sector.

Universities have an integral part to play in our economy, society and culture, which is highlighted now more than ever through their leading role in the fight against the virus. That is why we have introduced this package of measures to boost support for students, stabilise the admissions system and ease the pressures on universities’ finances.

I wrote to all hon. Members with full details of the package, which have also been published on GOV.UK: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-support-package-for-universities-and-students.