Home » UK fears a £108 billion decline to creative sector as int’l student numbers reduce

UK fears a £108 billion decline to creative sector as int’l student numbers reduce

Creative UK, an organization representing the creative industries, has warned that eliminating the option for international students to work in the United Kingdom (UK) post-graduation, could affect the sector’s £108 billion contribution to the creative economy annually.

This is because universities in the UK have noticed a significant decline in applications from international students which is raising concerns among university and industry leaders about the potential negative impacts of further visa restrictions on Britain’s creative sectors.

There are fears that the graduate visa scheme, which currently permits international graduates to work in the UK for up to three years, might be reduced or eliminated. This depends on the upcoming report from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), which will be presented to the government on Tuesday.

Nairametrics learns that earlier restrictions on international students this year are believed to have already led to a decrease in overseas applications.

Further uncertainty regarding the graduate visa’s future has triggered an additional drop, as indicated by a survey from the British Universities’ International Liaison Association.

This survey of 75 institutions revealed that 90% are experiencing fewer international applications for the next academic year, with a 27% decrease in total applications for taught postgraduate courses compared to the previous year.

What Creative UK and Universities UK are saying

A joint letter from Creative UK and Universities UK, representing vice-chancellors, was sent to the government urging the preservation of the graduate visa route.

They contend that international graduates are vital to the creative industries, which have now surpassed the combined value of the UK’s aerospace, life sciences, and automotive industries.

“Following further increases to visa fees and salary thresholds, the graduate visa represents one of the few routes left which enables talented graduates to remain in the UK and contribute to our growing creative industries,” the letter states.

“Whether it’s a young Jimmy Choo developing his craft at Cordwainers or world-renowned DJ Peggy Gou, who studied at London College of Fashion, the role our universities play in attracting the best creative talent from around the world goes to show the soft-power influence of our institutions.”

The vice-chancellor of St Andrews University and president of Universities UK, Sally Mapstone also noted the importance of the creative sector saying,

“International students are incredibly important to UK culture. They contribute a huge amount to universities, to the economy, to skills and jobs and we think it would be a tragedy – calamitous not just for institutions but actually for the UK as a whole – if the government took what would actually be quite unnecessary further action to restrict the number of international students.”

The British Academy also noted that removing the graduate visa would “stifle the vibrancy of the UK’s academic and research landscape”, with a continuing fall in international student numbers threatening the financial sustainability of universities, triggering course closures and staff redundancies.


Concerns about the future of the visa intensified since March, when the Home Secretary, James Cleverly, tasked the MAC with investigating whether the graduate route was subject to misuse, specifically questioning whether the demand for study visas was primarily driven by immigration motives.

Robert Jenrick, a former immigration minister, released a report through the Centre for Policy Studies thinktank, advocating for the abolition of the graduate visa. He argued that it permits individuals to work in the gig economy and accept very low-paying jobs.

A government spokesperson said: We are fully focused on striking the right balance between acting decisively to tackle net migration and attracting the brightest students to our universities, recognizings the significant contribution they make to the UK.”



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