Jump to accessibility statement Skip to content

Vice-Chancellors unite in letter to PM over curbs on student visas

Home / More / News / Vice-Chancellors unite in letter to PM over curbs on student visas

Published on 22, May, 2024

University of Sunderland Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Sir David Bell
University of Sunderland Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Sir David Bell

The University of Sunderland is among 26 northern universities who have written to the Prime Minister warning over plans to restrict graduate visas to international students.

In the letter, signed by Sunderland Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Sir David Bell, the universities warn PM Rishi Sunak that restricting visas further would “adversely impact all of our regional economies”, while “choking off the life chances of thousands of young people”. 

The universities spoke out as the Prime Minister prepares to respond to demands from within his party to limit the graduate visa route, which allows overseas students to remain in the UK for two years after completing their courses. 

In their letter, the vice-chancellors from universities including Sunderland, Durham and Teesside, as well as many other northern English universities, warned there had already been falls of up to 80 per cent in international student applications to some areas due to uncertainty over visa policy. 

A “sudden and adverse financial contraction” from restrictions would “lead to an inevitable contraction of the capacity of our brilliant northern universities in terms of both teaching and research”, it said. 

“This will in turn adversely impact all of our regional economies, stifling skills, innovation and productivity and choking off the life chances of thousands of young people,” added the letter.

The latest analysis from Universities UK (UUK) demonstrates that, since the International Education Strategy launched, “growth in international student recruitment to the UK has delivered a boost of more than £60 billion to the UK’s economy”.

On top of their visa fees, international students who find work and start businesses contribute billions of pounds in income tax, national insurance and VAT annually. They are also usually net contributors to the NHS through the NHS surcharge.

The letter added: “There is an increasing need for high value skills integral to support the advancement of science, technology and engineering disciplines. Major economic harm to our universities would mean that the UK cannot keep pace with our competitors in providing world class education, putting our economy and prosperity at risk.

“Put simply: The UK and the North- including your own constituency- needs these skills and needs international students because of the benefits they bring to the UK economy and to our towns and cities.” 

The letter was signed by:

Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor, University of Sunderland

Professor Graham Baldwin, Vice-Chancellor, University of Central Lancashire 

Professor Nic Beech, Vice-Chancellor, University of Salford

Professor Karen Bryan OBE, Vice-Chancellor, York St John University 

Professor John Cater, Vice-Chancellor, Edge Hill University

Professor Shirley Congdon, Vice-Chancellor, University of Bradford 

Professor Bob Cryan, Vice-Chancellor, University of Huddersfield 

Professor Paul Croney, OBE, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Teesside University 

Professor Chris Day, Vice-Chancellor, University of Newcastle 

Professor Charles Egbu, Vice-Chancellor, Leeds Trinity University 

Professor Tim Jones, Vice-Chancellor, University of Liverpool 

Professor Charlie Jeffery CBE, Vice-Chancellor, University of York 

Professor Koen Lamberts, Vice-Chancellor, University of Sheffield 

Professor Andy Long, Vice-Chancellor & Chief Executive Officer, Northumbria University 

Professor Sean McNamara FRSA, Principal/Chief Executive Officer, Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA) 

Professor Liz Mossop, Vice-Chancellor, Sheffield Hallam University 

Professor Karen O’Brien, Vice-Chancellor, Durham University 

Professor Dave Petley, Vice-Chancellor, University of Hull 

Professor Malcolm Press, CBE, Vice-Chancellor, Manchester Metropolitan University 

Sara Prowse, Chief Executive, UA92 

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, Vice-Chancellor, University of Manchester 

Professor Andy Schofield, Vice-Chancellor, University of Lancaster 

Professor Eunice Simmons, Vice Chancellor, University of Chester 

Professor Peter Slee, Vice-Chancellor, Leeds Beckett University 

Professor Tim Stewart, Vice-Chancellor, BPP University 

Professor Joe Wilson, Vice-Chancellor, Leeds Conservatoire 

Professor Simone Wonnacott, Vice-Chancellor, Leeds Arts University 

Professor Hai-Sui Yu FREng, Vice-Chancellor, University of Leeds