A university leader has warned the government risks sacrificing a ‘huge contribution’ to the skilled economy if it erects barriers for overseas students to bring their loved ones with them to the UK.
The Home Secretary is expected to consider measures to limit the number of dependents who can accompany international students to Britain, as he revises migration rules.
However, no definitive policy in this regard has yet been defined.
Suella Braverman has previously suggested the number of overseas students coming to the UK to study is too high.
In a recent interview with The Sun, she said: “We also have a very large number of students coming to this country and we have a very large number of dependents.
“So students come with their student visa, but they bring in family members who can piggyback on their student visa.
“These people come here, they don’t necessarily work or they have low-skilled jobs, and they don’t contribute to the growth of our economy.
She doubled down on her comments at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, telling the Chopper’s Politics podcast that her “ultimate aspiration” would be to reduce net migration to tens of thousands while refusing to set a target for the next election.
She explained how she wanted to target student and work visas, and the dependents they can bring with them, adding: “I think we have too many students coming to this country and supporting, frankly, substandard courses at inadequate institutions.”
Vivienne Stern, chief executive of Universities UK, said those who can bring dependents with them tend to be older and therefore more likely to have families.
“So putting up barriers for them to bring those loved ones with them is just going to push them to study somewhere else,” she said.
“We risk losing their enormous contribution to research and the skilled economy, at a time when we need them most.
“Far from being a free pass, dependents are subject to the same vigorous visa checks, including proof of funds to support themselves – and they all pay the NHS health surcharge in advance .”