UK budget: Sunak pledges new visa route and freezes fee cap

Plan for unsponsored, points-based route features in budget, alongside freeze in fees for 2022-23

March 3, 2021
UK houses of parliament
Source: iStock

The UK will create a new visa route aimed at attracting “the best and most promising talent in science, research and tech”, chancellor Rishi Sunak said in his budget, which also contained a freeze in the English tuition fee cap for 2022-23.

Mr Sunak’s speech, delivered on 3 March, had little to say on higher education funding – where key issues are expected to be addressed in the government’s full response to the Augar review at the autumn spending review.

But the budget document contained mention of a freeze in the English tuition fee cap, currently at £9,250, for 2022-23.

The government’s interim response to the Augar review had previously said it would “freeze the maximum tuition fee cap to deliver better value for students and to keep the cost of higher education under control”, which would be “initially be for one year” with “further changes to the student finance system...considered ahead of the next comprehensive spending review”.

There were other announcements potentially affecting research and employment-focused training. 

Mr Sunak said there would be a “new unsponsored, points-based visa to attract the best and most promising talent in science, research and tech”.

The budget document says the government is “modernising the immigration system to help the UK attract and retain the most highly skilled, globally mobile talent – particularly in academia, science, research and technology – from around the world”, pledging the government would “introduce, by March 2022, an elite points-based visa”. 

The budget also announced a review of research and development (R&D) tax reliefs, which support companies that work on innovative projects in science and technology.

“This review will consider all elements of the two R&D tax relief schemes, with the objective of ensuring the UK remains a competitive location for cutting-edge research, that the reliefs continue to be fit for purpose and that taxpayer money is effectively targeted”, with a consultation published alongside the budget, the budget document says.

Meanwhile, employers who hire apprentices between 1 April and 30 September 2021 “will receive £3,000 per new hire, compared with £1,500 per new apprentice hire (or £2,000 for those aged 24 and under) under the previous scheme”, the budget says, in a move that could impact on universities’ teaching of apprentices.

Mr Sunak also announced a scheme for small- and medium-sized enterprises to access “world-class management training”, which will see “dozens of business schools” offer a new “executive development programme”, with the government footing 90 per cent of the cost.

Register to continue

Why register?

  • Registration is free and only takes a moment
  • Once registered, you can read 3 articles a month
  • Sign up for our newsletter
Please Login or Register to read this article.

Related articles


Featured jobs