Braverman’s home secretary return brings UK sector ‘groans’

Suella Braverman raised concerns about international students during her previous time in the role

October 26, 2022
suella braverman
Source: UK Parliament

UK universities will be hampered in delivering economic growth if international student numbers are restricted by Suella Braverman, it has been warned, following her reappointment as home secretary.

Ms Braverman – who previously threatened to put limits on international student recruitment – was reinstated to the Home Office by Rishi Sunak, the new prime minister, just six days after she resigned from the role under the previous prime minister, Liz Truss, following a data breach.

“There was a loud sector-wide groan when she was reappointed as home secretary,” said Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute.

During her initial 43-day spell as home secretary, Ms Braverman raised concerns about the “very high” number of international students and their dependants in the UK.

She resigned on 19 October after a security breach but was reappointed to the position by Mr Sunak on his first day in office, sparking fears that she will again take aim at international students.

“It will be very much harder for universities to help deliver economic growth if you tie one of their hands behind their back by making it harder for international students to come to the UK,” said Mr Hillman.

“The end result will also be less soft power for the UK and less vibrant universities.”

He added that every part of the UK benefits from the presence of international students, and that those who work after finishing their studies generally fill posts in public-sector areas where there are shortfalls or enter sectors that are crying out for higher-level skills.

“Ditched last week as a security risk; reinstated this week as Home Secretary,” Paul Blomfield, the Labour MP for Sheffield Central who co-chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on International Students, wrote on Twitter.

“Anyone who thinks Rishi Sunak marks a fresh start should think again after Suella Braverman’s appointment.”

Ms Braverman had also raised concerns about Britain’s trade deal with India in an interview with The Spectator, and said she had “some reservations” about more visa flexibility for Indian students.

“We remain concerned about the future of international students from the perspective of the overall UK offer to them, as well as the India-UK FTA [free-trade agreement], given prior comments from the home secretary,” said Sanam Arora, chairperson of the National Indian Students and Alumni Union UK.

Ms Arora said she hoped Mr Sunak would be a supporter of international students and the UK’s higher education sector, one of the country’s largest exports.

“We call on him to remove international students from net migration targets,” she added.

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