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UK must attract overseas students which are key to future prosperity | Immigration Matters

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The Financial Times asks if the next generation of world leaders, like Manmohan Singhs, Benazir Bhutto and Bill Clinton, will be educated in the UK?

Britain’s world-class universities explain why the UK is the most popular destination for international students after the US.

Over 400,000 foreign students who gain Tier 4 visas for British colleges and universities each year make up the major component of the UK’s £15bn-a-year education exports, and are also a source of lasting value. Students take friendships and loyalties home with them that later become trade links, cultural bonds and diplomatic ties.

Britain’s universities are a globally competitive export sector and well-placed to make a greater contribution to growth. With economic growth at a premium, the UK should be wary of artificially hobbling it. Despite an increase in the total number of foreign students, our overall market share in international student education fell by nearly 1 percentage point between 2000 and 2009. It is important to understand why Britain is slipping and what can be done about it.

UK immigration statistics makes no distinction between temporary and permanent migration. All migrants who stay for more than a year show up in the long-term migration statistics, regardless of whether they leave a few years later. That means students who study in the UK for more than a year are caught by the government’s net migration target, despite the fact that they have little long-term impact. Cutting international student numbers leads to rapid short-term reductions in net migration: smaller cohorts arrive while larger cohorts from previous years leave.

While immigration is a major public concern, surveys show that it is not highly motivated foreign students toiling away in libraries that cause the British people anxiety. They do not feel culturally or economically threatened by overseas students, not least as they are much less likely to stay on than migrants who enter through the other main categories. The evidence suggests that only 15 per cent of students stay permanently, compared with about a third of those entering on work permits or through the family route.

Now that the government has clamped down on the problem of bogus colleges – an avenue for illegal immigration – there is scope to take legitimate students out of the annual migration targets so that we count only those who stay on permanently to work or get married after they have finished their studies. Indeed, that is what our main competitors in the global student market already do. Australia, Canada and the US sensibly treat international students as temporary or ‘non-immigrant’ admissions in their statistics.

They also take a smarter approach to post-study work. Students value this highly (partly because it enables them to start paying off student loans), and will invest their human capital elsewhere if it is not available. Competitors have understood that students tend to choose a country before choosing a specific university. Australia is especially keen to win market share. Last year it announced sweeping liberalisation of student visa rules.

It is crucial for the UK to build a national brand as a safe and exciting place to study, offering a rich life experience and enhanced career prospects. Tapping top-flight student talent globally will not just mean the UK gains in terms of innovation, research and a broader science and skills base. Greater exchange of students now will mean stronger relationships later.

The UK cannot afford to lose touch with the next generation of opinion-formers, restrict understanding of the British worldview or allow the UK to recede as a cultural reference point.

Changing the way students are classified will have little effect on the government’s ability to control medium to long-term net migration. The success in tackling bogus colleges and fraudulent student visa applications has created the political space in which a change to the classification is now conceivable. The government faces real choices over policy on international students. The difference they make to long-term net migration is relatively small. The difference these choices make to the education sector, to Britain’s soft power around the world and to the UK economy is very significant. Source: Financial Times. The writers, Nick Pearce and Jo Johnson, are the director of the Institute for Public Policy Research and the MP for Orpington. 

With a combination of high local fees and new visa rules deterring overseas students, many are predicting that some UK Universities may be forced to close.

A number of changes to the Immigration Rules have been implemented in the last two years, including those come into effect on 6 April, such as the abolition of the Post Study Work Visa (PSW).

Overseas students now face a tougher route from Tier 4 visa to working visa and eventually indefinite leave to remain and UK Naturalisation or British Citizenship.

Anecdotal evidence from immigration advisers suggest an upsurge in immigration and visa appeal cases, as more refusals are dished out for cases which they say would have been granted in the past.

Despite the abolition of student visa appeal rights, following the introduction of Tier 4 of the points based system in 2009, the waiting rooms at Taylor House and Hatton Cross First Tier Tribunal hearing centres look as packed as ever.

Cynthia Barker, of OISC registered immigration appeal specialist advisers Bison Management said they are ‘busier than ever’ with appeal cases:

‘We have seen more and more clients, especially in the last six months who wish to appeal against refusals by the UK Border Agency or British Embassy visa sections.

Slow processing and tough decisions are also deterring EU students, from Bulgaria and Romania, who are willing to pay for courses in order to obtain a Yellow Card to study and work in the UK.

Worker Registration and Yellow Card applications for Bulgarians and Romanians are taking up to six months to process, the UK Border Agency warns.

A year ago it took 3 to 4 weeks to obtain a yellow card to study and work in the UK.

BR1 Yellow Card postal applications for Bulgarians and Romanians will take up to six months to be ‘considered’, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) advises on its website.

Cynthia Barker of Bison UK Immigration Advisers said last week that some Bulgarians and Romanians are forced to go to appeal at the First-tier Tribunal to obtain their yellow card and exercise their European treaty rights.

Under EU expansion treaty the A2 members will be gain full freedom of movement, and be able to work without restriction in the UK, by 2014.

So why stop them coming now, when they are willing to pay thousands of pounds for a course – providing jobs for British workers – pay for private medical and sickness insurance, work legally and pay tax (instead of washing cars or cleaning houses for cash) as well as doing the jobs British workers don’t even want to do?

See also:

Tier 4 student visa laws ‘harm universities’ says former Education Minister

UKBA confirm changes to the Immigration Rules which start on 6 April 2012

Visa and Immigration Appeals on the increase

English University joins US admissions system to boost overseas student recruitment

Students applying for UK visas from Pakistan face new English language test

50,000 students abused visa system says report

UKBA confirm changes to the Immigration Rules which start on 6 April 2012

How Romanians and Bulgarians working illegally without Yellow Card or papers can legalise their status in the UK

Yellow or Blue Card Refused – Appeal or Reapply?

EU Commissioner calls for end to UK work restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians

7 tips for completing a Yellow Card BR1 application to work and study in the UK

Employment restrictions for Bulgarians and Romanians extended until end of 2013 

If you need any immigration advice or help with Sponsorship or Work Permits, Visa, ILR/Settlement, Citizenship, dependant visa or an appeal against a refusal please email: or visit

Coming to study in the UK?

Study Planners in partnership with UK Work Study makes your move to the UK easy. 

Get your UK Study Pack sent to you before you arrive in the UK. The UK Study Pack  includes:  setting up a UK bank account BEFORE arrival, MasterCard pre-paid Cash Card, Free International Money Transfer, UK Mobile Telephone number with credit, eGuides – over 80 pages of practical information about Studying and Living in the UK, Guidebook to England with maps, discounts for travel, hotels, insurance, visas and much more. UK Work Study also partner with specialists for shipping, accommodation, house starter kits and visa applications and renewals. 

Take away the stress, save money and get the essentials organised before you arrive. 

CLICK HERE for more information

Overseas students and workers can qualify for a tax refund 

You could qualify for a tax refund if you are an overseas student, work permit holder, Tier 1, Yellow or Blue Card holder – in fact any visa type – even if you are no longer legal or even in the UK! 

Looking for a Tier 4 college or University or need advice?

UKUS is a free University and College Admissions and advice service based in London, UK. Students interested in studying abroad can complete the Online UKUS Registration Form for more details.


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