Following yesterday’s publication of the figures for next year’s immigration cap on skilled workers, Home Secretary Theresa May has announced a new consultation on Tier 4 Student Visas.
The government wants to reduce the numbers of students coming in to study lower level courses and stamp out abuse. In line with that commitment, a consultation will be launched before the end of the year focusing on Tier 4 of the points-based system – the student route – which she added currently accounts for ‘two-thirds of migrants entering the UK each year’. She added:
‘By introducing a system that is more selective and more robust, the government is aiming to stamp out abuse while continuing to attract the top students to our top universities.’
The consultation, which will run for 8 weeks, will seek views on a range of measures to reduce the number of students that can come into the UK, such as:
- for adult students, focusing Tier 4 on higher-level courses and those offered by Highly Trusted sponsors;
- introducing tougher entry criteria such as English language competence;
- ensuring that students wishing to extend their studies show evidence of academic progression;
- limiting the student’s entitlements to work and sponsor dependants; and
- improving the accreditation process for education providers, alongside more rigorous inspections.
Theresa May added:
‘I want to ensure that students and education providers are of a high quality.
‘People imagine students to be those who come here for a few years to study at university and then go home – that is not always the case. We estimate that nearly half of all students coming here from abroad are coming to study a course below degree level where levels of compliance with immigration requirements are not high enough.
‘While we will protect our world-class universities, we want suitably qualified students with the genuine desire to study to come to our country. We must also have a more robust system to ensure that students leave the country at the end of their legitimate stay.’
A number of universities have already real concerns about the impact of the work based cap. Professor Steve Smith, president of vice-chancellors’ umbrella group, Universities UK, and vice-chancellor of Exeter University recently noted in the Guardian that the cap:
‘..could be a serious blow to the UK market in the face of huge competition from other countries that are investing in higher education… with the investment that competitor countries such as the US and China are putting into universities makes them more likely to poach staff at British universities. All of which amounts to a serious worry.’
With foreign students also accounting for as much as 30% of the revenue of some universities, and public expenditure cuts of 40 % to the higher education budget and 25 % to the further education budget, can the UK afford to go down this road?
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