Thousands of UAE students travel to study at universities around the world every year. Picture for illustrative purposes. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Dubai: The UK Home Office is denying recent news reports that it is weighing options to halve annual international student visas in order to slash immigration to the country.

Cutting back on the number of international students studying in the UK could have far-reaching impacts for countries such as the UAE which sees thousands of students travel yearly to study at universities.

Media reports suggest that the government is reviewing its options following a commitment by Amber Rudd, home secretary, at the annual gathering of Conservative party faithful in October to tighten visa rules for some post-secondary studies.

A news article in The Guardian reported that one option being considered could see the Home Office reduce the number of overseas students living in the UK yearly from 300,000 to 170,000.

Other claims within the UK suggested that annual numbers could be slashed further to only 100,000 students being allowed to move to the UK to further their studies.

In a statement to Gulf News, a spokesperson for the Home Office said the claims are baseless.

“Claims the Home Office is modelling cuts to reduce international students to a third are categorically untrue. We want to strengthen the system to support the best universities — and those that stick to the rules — to attract the best talent,” the spokesperson told Gulf News. “However, the British people have sent a very clear message that they want more control of immigration and we are committed to getting net migration down to sustainable levels in the tens of thousands.”

Any changes proposed are to ensure that each student is benefiting the UK.

The Independent newspaper reported that statistics suggest that students from abroad represent an £11 billion (Dh50.15 billion) annual injection into the UK economy and help support up to 170,000 jobs.

“We welcome international students who want to come to the UK to study at our world-leading educational institutions and we are committed to making sure we can attract the brightest and the best to do so. At the same time we must make sure that what we offer brings real benefits to this country.”

A UK national and Dubai-based professor, who declined to be named, said if UK student visas were reduced, that would leave fewer spaces for Emirati and UAE-based students to pursue undergraduate to postgraduate studies.

“It would be a real shame to deny young bright minds in the UAE the opportunity to study at UK schools they feel are the best place to study,” the professor said. “We will have to wait to learn if the fears prove true.”


UAE students like UK universities

Regional education indicators data collected by Montreal-based Unesco’s Institute for Statistics shows a great many UAE students depend on UK post-secondary institutions for their studies.

Annual statistics show that 3,267 UAE students were rnrolled in UK post-secondary institutions in 2014, up from 3,025 students the year before.

The figures show that UK universities are slightly more popular for UAE than the United States which hosted 3,094 students in 2014, up from 2,647 the year before that.

Latest numbers show that a total of 9,818 UAE students left their home country in 2015 to pursue post-secondary studies around the world.