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Ministers drop plan to bar foreign students from non-elite universities

Ministers have dropped plans to explore banning foreign students from non-elite universities, The Telegraph can disclose.

Whitehall sources said that ministers will not restrict students from lower-standard universities or courses, weeks after Downing Street said that it was among options being considered to combat a rise in net migration.

The proposal led to a backlash from universities, who argued that it would be an “act of economic self-harm”, while Professor Brian Bell, the Government’s chief migration adviser, said it would put some institutions at risk of collapse.

Gillian Keegan, the Education Secretary, is among Cabinet members opposed to restricting foreign students from non-elite universities.

She told MPs at an education select committee last week that international students are a “huge economic contributor” to the country and said that “when we’re looking at the challenge of migration”, we need to “separate” the issue of migrants crossing the Channel in small boats from “people who are coming here to do degrees”.

Figures released on Friday showed that foreign students at UK universities contributed a record £23.3billion to the economy in 2020, up from £14.8billion a decade earlier.

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