The Conservatives have unveiled a series of policies with potential major impacts on higher education in their manifesto, including a fresh toughening of student visa rules and an apparent goal for a “teaching research excellence framework”.
On immigration, the manifesto, published on 14 April, says the party would “keep our ambition of delivering annual net migration in the tens of thousands, not the hundreds of thousands”, a policy that has previously brought claims from UK universities that overseas student recruitment is being harmed.
The manifesto also says a Tory government would:
- “reform the student visa system with new measures to tackle abuse and reduce the numbers of students overstaying once their visas expire”
- This action would include “clamping down on the number of so-called satellite campuses opened in London by universities located elsewhere in the UK, and reviewing the highly trusted sponsor system for student visas”
- Exit checks would be introduced allowing a Tory government to “introduce targeted sanctions for those colleges or businesses that fail to ensure that migrants comply with the terms of their visa”
The party also pledges to “ensure that universities deliver the best possible value for money to students”. It commits to:
- “introduce a framework to recognise universities offering the highest teaching quality”
- “encourage universities to offer more two-year courses”
- “require more data to be openly available to potential students so that they can make decisions informed by the career paths of past graduates”
On other issues, the manifesto says: “Through the Nurse Review of research councils, we will seek to ensure that the UK continues to support world-leading science, and invests public money in the best possible way. And we will encourage the development of online education as a tool for students, whether studying independently or in our universities.”
The manifesto also emphasises the party’s policy to lift the cap on student numbers, already introduced by the government.