Inquiry Report: A Sustainable future for international students in the UK

  • Report by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for International Students calls for a major change in the Government’s approach to international students
  • Ambitious and positive plan urged to drive sustainable growth in the UK’s seventh biggest export market and deliver significant benefits to the UK’s students, universities, colleges, schools and local economies

Download the report here [PDF]

London (6 November 2018) – The All Party Parliamentary Group for International Students (APPG) has published a blueprint for the sustainable growth of UK international education, designed to help the sector regain its globally competitive position following eight years of restrictive Government policy.

The report is the latest in a number of studies that have clearly shown the benefits that international students bring to the UK, following the publication of the Migration Advisory Committee’s report (September 2018) and research by the Higher Education Policy Institute and Kaplan on the national and local economic contribution made by international students (January 2018).

The report makes 12 recommendations that, taken together, will restore the UK’s competitiveness in the international education sector, following eight years of relative decline. It is the first report to bring together recommendations to share growth across all areas of the UK and all levels of education, including universities, colleges, schools and English-language providers.

Paul Blomfield MP, co-chair of the International Students APPG added:

“Increasingly restrictive policies and procedures over the last eight years have discouraged many international students from applying to the UK.”

“We need to press the reset button, establish an ambitious strategy to increase recruitment, put new policies in place, and send out a clear message that international students are welcome in the UK.”

“Our report offers a way forward for the Government, and a route-map to renewed competitiveness for our world-class universities and colleges. I urge Ministers to look carefully at our recommendations and step up to the challenge.”

Commenting on the report, Cobra Beer Founder and Chairman, President of the UK Council for International Student Affairs and International Students APPG co-chair, Lord Bilimoria said:

“Britain is losing in the battle to attract talented and committed international students from around the world. Eight years of prioritising an impossible target using misleading statistics, over our economy and world-leading institutions has left the UK’s position as the second largest destination for international students in jeopardy. It’s time for us to move on and target growth in the number of international students.”

“British universities used to lead the world in attracting international students. But now all our major competitors are growing at a rate far greater than us, and in areas where we have seen the greatest decline. Even Canada attracts more students from India than the UK does. I strongly commend the recommendations included in this report as a way to put this right.”

“Like most of the country, I am proud that students from all around the world want to come and study in the UK. We can do so much more to welcome them with policies that make it easier to come here, and offer real opportunities to gain work experience when they finish their studies. It is time for a completely new approach.”

Professor Koen Lamberts, President & Vice Chancellor of the University of Sheffield and Chair of the UK Council for International Student Affairs, said:

“I am proud to be the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield – the university that co-founded the #WeAreInternational campaign and which has spoken with conviction about the benefits of international scholarship to cities and communities across the UK.

“International students make a huge contribution, both academically and economically, and our diverse student population is crucial to the education, research and innovation for which we are known around the world. The measures in this report will enable the UK to recover its falling share in the international student market, and I wholeheartedly urge the government to take note, in the national interest.”

Following the publication of the report, the APPG will be working together to help champion this agenda within Parliament – including during the passage of the upcoming Immigration Bill – and encouraging the Government to back the recommendations.


The report’s 12 recommendations are:


1. The APPG recommends that a cross-departmental group establishes a clear and ambitious target to grow international student numbers, supported by a cross-departmental strategy and a commitment to remove students from the target to reduce net migration.

2. The Government should offer a clearly labelled and attractive post-study work visa which allows up to two years of work experience in the UK.

3. The Government should pursue an EU deal for unrestricted movement of students and researchers, as part of a close relationship with European universities and provide urgent clarity for EU nationals studying and researching in the UK on what changes they will experience in visa and funding rights.

4. Immigration rules should facilitate and encourage students to study in the UK and at multiple study levels within the UK education system.

5. The Government should promote and protect the diversity of the UK education offer including small, specialist, vocational and further education providers within the proposed recruitment strategy.

6. The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration should conduct an independent review of credibility interviews within the student immigration system to ensure the system is fit for purpose, cost-effective relative to current risk and does not limit the diversity of international students in the UK.

7. The UK Government should work closely with devolved and regional governments to support growth in international student numbers, protect local courses and institutions which are dependent on international students, and support regional and national initiatives which enhance the benefit of international education such as work experience schemes and industry engagement.

8. The Government should accurately track data on education as an export and as an economic value, including at a national, regional and local level. Government should include education in their trade strategy when approaching bi-lateral agreements.



9. Education institutions should share best practice across the education sector to enhance internationalisation strategies through maximising the advantages and benefits of having a diverse body of international students, as well as support more UK students to study abroad.



10. Messages for international students regarding the UK should be welcoming, clear, simple and consistent. These should be developed in cooperation between the government and the education sector.

11. The UK should establish an international graduate and alumni strategy which would support international students for employment opportunities in their home country to boost UK soft power, research and trade and support greater engagement with alumni by universities, business and government. Activities to track the long-term employment destination of international graduates should be intensified.

12.Education institutions, local government and local business should come together to attract, plan for, support and integrate international students in the local community.

– ENDS –


APPG for International Students Secretariat
+44 20 3929 3370

Notes to Editors
About the APPG for International Students
The APPG for International students promotes the local, regional and national value of international education, and develops policies which would enhance the international student experience and the position of the UK in the global education market.

About IHE
Independent Higher Education (IHE) is the UK membership organisation and national representative body for independent providers of higher education, professional training and pathways.