UK Government Now Wants MORE International Students

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After coming in for criticism over harsher student visa restrictions and new measures that have made international students feel less welcome, the British government has unveiled plans to recruit almost 100,000 more overseas students over the next five years.

The plans were part of a new governmental strategy for international education, called International Education - Global Growth and Prosperity that was revealed on Monday. With the sole aim of encouraging students to study in the UK, the initial report said that it is ‘realistic' for overseas student numbers to grow by 15-20% in the next five years, meaning an extra 90,000 students by 2018.

The scheme comes in part as a reaction to the growing dissatisfaction amongst higher education experts at government actions that have been perceived as making international students feel unwelcome in the UK. Indeed, this year, the number of overseas applications for UK universities fell for the first time in 16 years.

Business secretary Vince Cable addressed this issue and emphasised how he hopes to prevent the downturn from becoming a trend:

"We have created an attractive environment and we should sell this in a positive way. We are anxious to reassure you we welcome overseas students and there is no cap on numbers."

David Willetts, minister for universities and science, repeated this sentiment, admitting that "misunderstandings" remain about student visas, but arguing "we have had to tackle the abuse within the sector". Despite this, he stressed that there are "no plans" for capping the number of international student visas awarded and stating :

"We must show that the UK values international students, will provide a warm welcome and support while they are here and will keep in touch after they go home."

The Finance Behind International Students

As well as making plans for the future, the report also looked at the current state of higher education in the UK. It estimated that international students contributed over £10billion to the UK economy in 2011-12, almost 60% of the £17.5 billion that higher education is thought to contribute overall.

With this in mind it comes as no surprise that the government is now making a u-turn on the number of international students welcome in the UK. Vince Cable in particular drew attention to the financial benefits that the students bring:

"Overseas students make a huge contribution to Britain. They boost our economy, and enhance our cultural life, which is why there is no cap on the number of legitimate students who can study here."

However, with concerns over students being looked at simply as ‘cash-cows' the government will be keen to focus on the other benefits they can enjoy and bring to the UK in this latest PR campaign.

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