The UK government is set to continue its ban on British state schools enrolling foreign students, putting the country at a competitive disadvantage in the growing market for school integration programmes.
Following stories in the UK press that a consortium of England’s state grammar schools were preparing to admit Chinese students for six months, the EL Gazette contacted the Home Office, as the ministry responsible for immigration is known.
Asked if the programme would be legal, the Home Office was unable to answer directly. They consulted the department of education and sent us the following response:
“As a matter of long-standing policy, state-funded schools are not able to recruit or sponsor international students to come to the UK to study.”
The Home Office went on to specify that children from outside the European Economic Area could only attend state schools as part of a student exchange programme.
Further research revealed that the grammar schools were only offering short-term exchange programmes, running for a matter of weeks, not months, as first reported.
Other provider markets have seen numbers rise in this lucrative sector. The United States had 59,000 fee-paying students enrolled in high schools in 2016, according to a report in Inside HigherEd. This is a 12 per cent rise in just three years. Figures for Australia reached 24,000 this year.
In January, 2019 the Independent Schools Council reported 29,000 foreign enrolments in non-state schools, though that number doubles if international students with parents who are resident in the UK are also counted. State schools are currently allowed to enrol the unaccompanied children of EU citizens, but no figures seem to be available.