Westminster Higher Education Forum

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7951044809 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7538736244.
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Recruiting and supporting international students - the new immigration system and the impact of the pandemic, marketing and the student experience, and next steps for the International Education Strategy

Morning, Thursday, 5th November 2020

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will examine next steps for attracting international students to study in UK universities.

Areas for discussion include:

  • keeping up the momentum - how can recent success in international student recruitment be maintained and built upon
  • recruitment processes and international student reception in the UK - best practice and priorities for improvement
  • a new UK immigration system - how proposals affect the ability to meet goals in the Government’s International Education Strategy
  • COVID-19 - strategic options for mitigating the impact on students - and on university staff, operations, and marketing

The discussion in detail:

  • assessing success factors - with UCAS reporting record international student recruitment numbers this autumn, analysing the segmentation in the international student cohort, the spread across HEPs and courses, underlying factors, and the implications for institutions, best practice and policy going forward
  • COVID-19 - the impact of the pandemic on international students currently studying in the UK, and the potential further implications for those students over the coming months and years
  • remote, distance and digital learning - in the context of growth during the pandemic, and what this might signal for the broader future of international study in the UK
  • the International Education Strategy - the planned update this autumn, and assessing progress on its key goals for increasing the numbers of international higher education students in the UK
  • visa and immigration rules - looking at options and how they will work best for the higher education sector and for international students, including assessing proposals to:
    • open new routes for EU, EEA and Swiss citizens to obtain UK student visas, and
    • introduce a new graduate immigration route for international students who have completed a degree in the UK, allowing them to work or seek work in the UK for up to two years
  • fees - strategies and approaches for the pricing of degree and higher education courses offered to international students
  • the UK HE brand - latest thinking on how best to maintain and enhance the perception of the UK’s HE sector internationally
  • the international student experience - ensuring that arriving international students are met with a welcoming and inclusive environment

Developments that are relevant to the discussion:

  • a record 2020-2021 academic year - UK universities on course to recruit record numbers of international students this year despite the feared impact of COVID-19, according to UCAS figures:

    • undergraduates from outside the UK and EU increasing by 9%, to 44,300
    • a 2% drop in new undergraduates from the EU to near 30,000
    • deferrals rising only very slightly, from 5.4% in 2019 to 5.7%
  • The International Education Strategy

    • Government support package for universities and students - measures to take into account the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
    • the International Education Champion - Sir Steve Smith appointed to work with key stakeholders to:
      • support international students in the UK
      • build worldwide networks for promoting the UK as an international education partner
  • COVID-19

    • Supporting international students - a recent OfS briefing note on approaches by universities and colleges during the pandemic, in areas such mental health, keeping up a sense of community whilst isolating, and adapting to remote learning - and students reportedly in financial hardship due to lack of part-time work and funding from home
    • Coronavirus Insights from Current and Prospective International Students - recent Quacquarelli Symonds research finding that 45% of respondents will only feel comfortable travelling overseas to study when campuses reopen and face-to-face teaching has resumed
    • impact on 2019-2020 academic year - uncertainty over international students taking their place at UK institutions this year, with an increase in deferrals
    • Government support package for universities and students - announced in May, including a cap on admissions, financial support for students, and an enhanced clearing process
  • The immigration system

    • Coronavirus (COVID-19): Tier 4 sponsors, migrants and short-term students - temporary relaxation of visa requirements for international students
    • UK points-based immigration system - the Government’s proposals for introduction from 2021
    • Student Support in England - changes to the fee status of EU, EEA and Swiss nationals, who will no longer be eligible for home fees from 2021
    • English language - closure of many of the UKVI-approved secure test centres
    • Five ways to stabilise EU/ EEA demand following the introduction of the new points-based system - Universities UK recommending targeted financial support and bringing the cost of immigration in line with international competitors
  • UK international competitiveness

    • Russell Group sets out proposals to give UK the edge in competitive international student market, including calls for:
      • marketing - an international campaign to showcase the UK as an attractive study destination that is supportive of international students throughout the COVID-19 crisis
      • visas - the proposal for a new 2-year post-study work visa to be confirmed
      • remote learning - the UK to seek global consensus on the recognition of online courses for when international students return to their home countries
  • UKRI-funded postgraduate programmes to open to international students - announced for the 2021-22 academic year

The agenda:

  • The outlook for international student recruitment in the UK and key policy priorities
  • Examining the likely future mix of the UK’s international student cohort
  • Driving the recruitment of international students in the UK post-pandemic - visa and immigration rules, support with admissions, pricing strategies, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • The UK’s immigration policy post-Brexit and the way forward for supporting international students into employment
  • Welcoming international students and improving the international student experience - integration, inclusivity, remote learning and graduate career pathways
  • The future for the International Education Strategy

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders.

This conference is no different. Places have been reserved by officials from BEIS; the Department for Education; UK Visas and Immigration; the Department for International Trade; the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office; the Home Office; the Office for National Statistics; UKVI and the Welsh Government.

As is typical of our seminars, we expect attendees to be a senior and informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government officials involved in this area of public policy, together with university leadership and senior research staff, representatives from foreign governments and HEIs, student and advocacy groups, financial and legal advisors, accommodation and other service providers, local government, charities and support organisations focusing on wellbeing and finances, industry groups and professional bodies, academics and commentators, and reporters from the higher education media.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speakers

Michael Peak

Senior Advisor, Education Research, British Council

Aisling Conboy

Higher Education Specialist, Education Team, Department for International Trade

Keynote Speakers

Aisling Conboy

Higher Education Specialist, Education Team, Department for International Trade

Michael Peak

Senior Advisor, Education Research, British Council


Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe

Vice-President, International Students House, London

Lord Bilimoria

President, UK Council for International Student Affairs; Chancellor, University of Birmingham and President, CBI


Jeffrey Williams

Chief Executive Officer, Enroly

Dr Louise Owusu-Kwarteng

Associate Professor in Applied Sociology, Sociology Programme Leader and Faculty Director of Undergraduate Research, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Science, University of Greenwich

Andrew Wootton

Director, ProtectED

Marley Morris

Associate Director - Immigration, Trade and EU Relations, Institute for Public Policy Research

Anne Marie Graham

Chief Executive, UKCISA

Dr Anthony Manning

Dean for Internationalisation, University of Kent

Ijlal Khalid

International Officer, University of Sussex Students’ Union

Naomi Goldshtein

Senior Manager, Fragomen

Sarah Cooper

Careers Consultant, University of Bristol

Jacqueline Moore

Head of Immigration, Shepherd & Wedderburn