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UK varsities mull cutting courses, staff over drop in Nigerian, Indian, other foreign students enrollment

University leaders warned that the loss of a one-third of foreign students has threatened to push institutions into loss.

• March 17, 2024

Universities in the United Kingdom are considering cutting off courses over the reduction of foreign students enrollment, which is beginning to affect the funding of various institutions.

According to a report in The Times on Saturday, university leaders warned that the loss of one-third of foreign students has threatened to push institutions into loss, forcing them to make “really difficult” cuts such as closing entire courses and reducing the number of teaching staff, among other measures.

The executive secretary of the University Chairs Committee, John Rushforth, told the newspaper, “I have been in higher education for 30 years and senior leaders are more concerned than ever.”

He added that “bankruptcy is a realistic possibility,” with one in ten already cutting staff this year.

Mr Rushforth continued, “Accepting fewer British students is a last resort, but if you are losing something, people have to consider it. We have to analyse everything because the situation is very serious.”

“Universities have to think carefully about what they want to protect and make decisions about how to divest things that are not core to the institution. There will be fewer options for students. So, basically, you either have to increase revenue or reduce quality or volume,” he said.

Some universities have blamed the decline in Nigerian student enrollment on the country’s economic crisis, as the naira plummeted against the pound.

The Financial Times reported in January that enrollment into UK universities had fallen by over a one-third from key countries, including Nigeria and India.

Following the announcement by the UK authorities to stop international students from bringing in dependents on their study visa, there was panic among universities that they might fall into deficit.

Earlier this year, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced new immigration policies barring international graduate students from bringing family members to the UK.  

In December, he also announced that the government was reviewing the so-called “graduate route”, enabling international students to work in the UK for two years. 

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