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Breaking Down Barriers to Entry in International Education

Tess Wilkinson

Tess Wilkinson

Tess Wilkinson is Director of Education Services at Henley & Partners.

The quest for education is a fundamental pursuit that transcends borders, cultures, and socio-economic backgrounds. For many, studying abroad represents an opportunity to acquire advanced knowledge and skills as well as a chance to experience different cultures, expand professional networks, and gain a competitive edge in the global job market. However, recent changes have made it increasingly difficult for international students to obtain study visas, particularly in the UK and the USA, two of the most sought-after destinations for higher education. As many education hotspots, including the UK and the USA, offer investment migration programs, high-net-worth families can acquire access to international education via this route.

The benefits of an international education

All around the world, high-net-worth individuals prioritize obtaining quality international education for themselves and their families to increase their access to opportunities and secure the success of future generations.

An international education often provides access to world-class institutions and cutting-edge research facilities that may not be available in one’s home country. Top international universities frequently offer more diverse and specialized programs, ranging from advanced science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields to niche areas in the humanities and the social sciences.

Graduating university students with their arms around each other

Moreover, studying abroad allows students to immerse themselves in a new cultural environment, fostering personal growth, adaptability, and a broader worldview. It facilitates the development of a global perspective, which is increasingly valuable in today’s interconnected world.

This can be seen in the recently published, Henley Opportunity Index, a proprietary benchmarking tool that shows how premium education and expanded global access create opportunity and drive success and prosperity.

International education can significantly enhance career prospects, as employers often regard the experience thereof as a testament to a candidate’s resilience, independence, and cross-cultural communication skills.

Mounting obstacles to access

Two of the most highly regarded locations for international studies are the UK and the USA owing to their exceptional educational systems, diverse academic offerings, and the prestige associated with their universities. The UK is home to some of the oldest and most revered institutions in the world, such as the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge, which consistently rank among the top universities globally. The country’s rich academic heritage, coupled with a broad spectrum of degree programs and a relatively shorter duration for many courses, makes the UK an attractive destination for students seeking high-quality education.

The USA, on the other hand, is renowned for its extensive range of institutions, from Ivy League universities like Harvard and Yale to state colleges that offer robust academic programs and research opportunities. The US educational system emphasizes a well-rounded approach, allowing students to explore various disciplines before specializing, which can be particularly appealing to those who are undecided about their career paths. The country’s diverse and dynamic campus life, combined with opportunities for internships and work experience, further enhances its appeal.

However, recent policy changes and increased competitiveness have made it more challenging for international students to obtain study visas in these countries.

The UK Government has recently revised its student visa options, making them more restrictive, and preventing dependent family members from joining applicants. 

In the USA, while the overall number of student visas issued increased between 2022 and 2023, demand has also surged and obtaining a visa has become increasingly competitive, with over a third of international students being turned away. What’s more, the rate of refusal for student visas was nearly twice that of refusal for other types of visas.

This trend can also be seen elsewhere in the world. The Canadian government recently announced a cap on study permits, which is likely to reduce the number of study visas granted by 35%, while Australia has recently updated its study visa requirements to a higher level of English language skills and shortened the duration if its post-study work visa.

All of this is in addition to the regular hurdles that must be faced when looking to study internationally, such as high application fees, mandatory interviews, and extensive documentation requirements.

Investment migration as an alternative path

Given the increasing barriers faced by international students, investment migration can present a viable alternative for those seeking to study abroad. Residence programs such as the UK Innovator Founder Visa or the US EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, for example, can provide a more straightforward and expedited route to securing the necessary legal status to reside and study in a desired country.

Obtaining residence or citizenship through investment therefore allows students to bypass some of the stringent visa requirements and application processes as they acquire residence rights of citizenship of the host country. It also enables additional benefits and flexibility, such as the ability to work part-time, access healthcare, and enjoy an international lifestyle. Importantly, it eliminates restrictions for those who want to bring family members or explore future career prospects in the host country.

The increasing difficulty in obtaining sought after study visas poses significant challenges for international students. However, investment migration offers a compelling alternative, enabling students to achieve their educational goals while accessing the broader benefits associated with gaining an additional residence or citizenship.

As the global landscape continues to evolve, it is crucial for individuals to explore all available options to secure their future and fulfill their aspirations for higher education. Henley & Partners, as a leading advisory firm in investment migration, stands ready to assist those seeking to define their future through strategic investment and global mobility, and our education division, Henley & Partners Education, offers expert, impartial advice and support to parents globally who are looking to secure the best education for their children.

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Henley & Partners assists international clients in obtaining residence and citizenship under the respective programs. Contact us to arrange an initial private consultation.


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