HEI Challenges in the International Student Market – Part (1)
The world has witnessed an exponential growth in science and technology in the past 20 years, information is getting transferred in real-time, which means with just a click of a button, from virtually anywhere. This growth has accelerated social development and increased the human thirst for knowledge. University education has become a priority for those who want to have wider access to information and enhance their career prospects, as the labour market is constantly striving to reduce the unemployability rates in line with the growth of qualities needed to fulfil a certain job. This has pushed people, especially those in developing countries, to go for higher education degrees especially.
The UK has one the highest numbers of international students in the world, with almost half a million students arriving every year. Higher education institutions are constantly pushing major efforts to increase student satisfaction levels to retain and increase this number as they contribute significant funds to university budgets.
International students who come to study in the UK have one of the highest satisfaction levels in the world throughout their studying journey. They acquire a great degree and unique skill sets that distinguish them in a competitive job market in their respective home countries. On the other hand, some choose to seek employment abroad (at the destination of study) and this is one of the main constraints that the UK HEI is failing to provide, while other international students study at destinations that offer a more complete package.
Why HEI fails to satisfy student postgraduate needs?
According to the Chartered Association of Business Schools report on “UK Business schools and International student recruitment in 2016”, the visa regulations for international students seeking to work in the UK after graduation has been tightened as of March 2016. Key features of this policy included the introduction of requirements for international graduates to find an employer within four months of graduation that is willing to offer them a graduate job with a salary of at least £20,500 and provide visa sponsorship. Students who want to set up a business in the UK can apply for a ‘Graduate Entrepreneur’ visa and will need their university to ‘sponsor’ them. The Government also toughened up the rules on English language competence, insisting students have an upper intermediate level of English. Evidence shows this policy, and how it is perceived by prospective students abroad, is having a negative impact on business schools’ ability to recruit international students. Coupled with increased competition for international students from institutions abroad the decline in non-EU students also has a detrimental effect on university finances and the regional economies around them.
Over 90% definitely or mostly agree that ‘Changes to post-study work visa availability has had a negative impact on international student recruitment’. Nearly 90% also definitely or mostly agree that ‘Reporting of government policy has had a negative impact on international student recruitment’. Visa issues are further highlighted by 80% of business schools, which definitely or mostly agree that ‘Processing student visa applications by UK authorities has had a negative impact on international student recruitment’.
However, it is not just post-study work visa issues that were highlighted as making international student recruitment more difficult. Changes in visa rules at short notice and without the adequate detail of the changes have made have further complicated recruitment. Allowable visa application refusal rates falling to a maximum of 10% have also made the recruitment process more difficult, with fears that a further tightening may be considered. Some suggested that rules were also applied differently depending on the institution to which a candidate was applying.
The loss of international graduates working in the UK economy produces a potential reduction in growth. International students working in the UK contribute directly in terms of the taxes they pay and the spending they undertake, but potentially more significantly they help British business to grow markets, especially in their country of origin.