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Cameron Warns Sunak That Visa Restrictions May Close Universities

Cameron Alerts Sunak to University Closures Due to Visa Restrictions

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak faces serious opposition from key ministers over his plan to impose curbs on graduate visas in an effort to reduce migration.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, and former Prime Minister David Cameron have all voiced concerns about the potential economic impact of these restrictions on universities.

Sunak’s proposal aims to limit graduate visas to ensure only the “best and the brightest” stay in the UK after their studies. Currently, the graduate visa scheme allows international students to remain in the UK for two years post-graduation.

Cameron Cautions Sunak Visa Policies May Lead to University Closures

Critics argue the scheme is being abused, with options on the table including limiting these visas to graduates from Russell Group universities or reducing their duration.

Keegan has warned that such restrictions could lead to outstanding financial difficulties for universities, potentially causing job losses, closures, and a reduction in research capabilities.

Her concerns are backed by an analysis from the Department for Education, which suggests existing curbs on family members joining students could lead to a 0.5% hit to GDP.

David Cameron added that international students are crucial for the financial stability and research capabilities of UK universities, and further restrictions could exacerbate existing financial challenges.

Professor Brian Bell, chairman of the Migration Advisory Committee, highlighted that the recent ban on foreign students bringing family members has already led to a remarkable drop in deposits from international students, with some universities reporting declines of up to 60%.

Sunak is under pressure to act ahead of the upcoming net migration figures, which are expected to show high numbers. The government’s commitment to reducing net migration, a key pledge in the 2019 Tory manifesto, is a driving force behind these proposed visa changes.

However, internal government sources argue that these restrictions could mean the difference between economic growth and recession for the UK.

Despite these concerns, Sunak remains focused on addressing what he describes as “abuse of our immigration system.” Official figures indicate that more than a quarter of those on graduate visas did not engage in PAYE employment during the last financial year, raising questions about the scheme’s effectiveness.

The upcoming net migration figures, set to be revealed by the Office for National Statistics, will likely influence the ongoing debate and the government’s final decision on the matter.

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