Higher Education PR case study

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Defending student visas

Defending student visas
Client: Study Group

Their Brief

An award-winning issues management campaign.

Study Group is the leading supplier of international students to Britain’s higher education sector. The organisation provides on- and off- campus preparation courses for international students each year to ensure academic success and entry into UK universities.

The UK’s international education sector was destabilised by poorly implemented changes to the student visa requirements (Tier 4 of the visa system) beginning in 2009, which included proposed increases to the English language levels required of international students  An entire industry was under threat.‚Äč

What We Did

With TopLine's help, Study Group led the sector's response, as the issue developed, with a series of letters and case studies highlighting the economic, cultural and educational value of international students to the UK. We alerted senior stakeholders to the issue in order to influence policy through an education PR and social media campaign. 

A highlight of the campaign was a press conference hosted by Study Group, which brought all stakeholders in the industry together for the first time in history, to present a united front in responding to the proposed changes.


Thanks largely to the sustained work of Study Group and TopLine, the British Government revised its changes to the student visa system. Study Group's role in securing the continuation of one of the UK's greatest hidden exports was universally recognised in the higher education sector.

Highlights of the campaign included:

  • 4 articles in the FT supporting the campaign.
  • Coverage across the BBC, Press Association, Guardian and Telegraph.
  • The hashtag #defendstudentvisas trending on Twitter.
  • Feedback from government ministers that the media campaign had played an important role in the decision.
  • Two awards for issues management campaign of the year (PRCA and Stevies).

What They Said

TopLine Comms went to great lengths to understand this very complex issue and ensure that both sides of the story were heard. They made sure we responded with consistent messaging every time the issue was raised in the media and by the time the consultation was announced in late 2010, journalists were approaching us for our opinion as we were viewed as thought leaders on the issue. The press conference was timed to perfection.

The government has put the international education sector under an exceptional amount of strain over the last two years, representing a major threat to our own business and the UK’s recovering economy. We really felt TopLine had Study Group’s, and the sector’s best interests at heart throughout the process and they played a major role in securing the immediate future of the UK’s second biggest export sector.

James Pitman
MD Higher Education, UK and Europe, Study Group

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