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Foreign students may be barred from studying in the United Kingdom unless they have secured a spot at a “top university,” a move observers say is part of the Conservative government’s efforts to curb migration to the country, CNBC reported.

A report by the Times newspaper said the new rules aim to limit the number of international students coming to the UK, including barring students that plan to study “low quality degrees.”

The restrictions also affect how many family members the students can bring with them to the UK. The report notes that the measures will only apply to foreign students who aren’t already living in the UK.

The proposal was unveiled as ministers are debating how to reduce migrant flows to the UK after record levels of net migration were reported last week.

The Office for National Statistics found that nearly 1.1 million people arrived in Britain in the year to June, with around 560,000 emigrating in the same period, leaving net inward migration at a record 504,000 people.

Observers noted that the proposal goes against the government’s International Growth Strategy from 2019, which aims to “support the UK education sector to access global opportunities.”

Officials planned to increase the number of international students studying in the UK each year to 600,000 by 2030 – a target that was reached during the 2020-2021 academic year when more than 605,000 foreign students enrolled in British universities.

University bodies criticized the proposal, saying the move would be “an act of economic self-harm.”

But Home Secretary Suella Braverman countered that the high migration numbers have put pressure on accommodation and public services in the UK, adding that authorities are continuing to keep immigration policies under review.

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