The UK government will cut the number of working hours for overseas students studying below degree level courses from 20 hours per week to 10, the Home Office announced today.
The new changes, which follow a three month review of student visas and Home Secretary Alan Johnson’s clampdown on bogus students, will form part of new immigration rules which will be introduced to take effect from 3 March 2010.
The following release was published on the Home Office website today:
Foreign students from outside Europe wanting to come to the UK to study will be required to meet stricter entry criteria, the Home Secretary announced today.
The new regulations will ensure that students studying below degree level have a limited ability to work in the UK, and that their dependants cannot work here at all.
It will be even harder for bogus students, whose only aim is to work in the UK, to come into the country.
Home Secretary Alan Johnson also confirmed that the government will implement plans to introduce a points test by 2011 for those who wish to earn British citizenship.
The new measures for students include:
- a good standard of English (equivalent of holding just below a GCSE in a foreign language) will be needed to come to the UK and study to improve English language competency further;
- a good standard of English (again equivalent of holding just below a GCSE in a foreign language) will need to be demonstrated in order to study any other course below degree level;
- restricting the lowest-level courses (A levels and equivalent) to only the most trusted institutions;
- halving the amount of time a student studying below first degree level or on a foundation degree course will be able to work, to just 10 hours during term time;
- a ban on bringing in dependants for anyone studying a course for less than six months; and
- a ban on dependants of anyone studying a course lower than foundation or undergraduate degree level from working – they will face removal from the UK if found doing so.
Alan Johnson said:
‘The points-based system was introduced to provide a rigorous system to manage legitimate access to the UK to work and study, with the ability to respond to changing circumstances.
‘We want foreign students to come here to study, not to work illegally, and today we have set out necessary steps which will maintain the robustness of the system we introduced last year. I make no apologies for that.’
In addition, the new measures will include:
- a ban on foreign students studying below degree level if the course includes a work placement – unless that course is being provided by a university, college or training provider which has the status of ‘highly trusted sponsor’;
- a requirement for students to demonstrate their English language ability by passing an approved secure test – this will apply to all students studying below (foundation) degree level, including those coming to study English language; and
- the introduction of tougher criteria for defining which course providers count as ‘highly trusted sponsors’ of foreign students. We expect that all publicly funded universities and colleges will count as highly trusted, and we will ensure that there is a rapid but rigorous system for ensuring that private training colleges can also gain that status as soon as possible.
UK universities and colleges offer an excellent education, and the government recognises the essential contribution that genuine international students bring – economically, academically and socially – to the country as a whole, as well as to the universities and colleges in which they study. However, these steps are part of the government’s commitment to crack down on potential abuse of the system.
These changes are part of a radical overhaul of the student system which began last year. Since March 2009, the government has required all foreign students to be sponsored by a college licensed by the UK Border Agency, and to demonstrate that they can support themselves once they get here before being granted a visa. Also since March, any college or university wanting to bring in international students must be accredited and licensed. This has reduced the number of institutions able to bring students to the UK from over 4,000 to approximately 2,000.
Pat McFadden, the Minister for Business, Innovation and Skills, said:
‘Genuine international students are welcome in the UK. They make a significant contribution to the academic and cultural life of the universities and colleges where they study, and bring over £5.3bn to our economy each year. But where there is abuse it undermines the position of genuine students as much as anyone else.
‘It is important that we protect the reputation and quality of our institutions by ensuring only legitimate students are able to benefit from the courses they offer. This is why we will work closely with the sector to implement the recommendations of this review.’
The new requirements for foreign students follow a review of Tier 4 of the points-based system, announced by the Prime Minister in November 2009. The review team were asked to look at whether the current Tier 4 arrangements strike the right balance between facilitating access of genuine students and preventing abuse by economic migrants.
The Home Secretary’s written ministerial statement about the student changes can be downloaded from the right side of this page.
The decision to introduce a points test for citizenship follows the results of a public consultation on the proposals. The results, which were published today in the Consultations section of this website, show that three-quarters of the public polled during the consultation are in favour of the government’s plans to introduce a points scheme for citizenship.
Alan Johnson added:
‘We have already made fundamental changes to the immigration system to control migration in a way that is firm, and has a positive impact on our work force and economy.
‘From 2011 we will put the mechanisms in place that will ensure that people who are allowed to become citizens have earned their right to stay here.
‘We will do this using a points test, giving us the ability to take clear, enforceable decisions about who should be allowed to stay permanently, with the flexibility to raise or lower the threshold for citizenship, depending on the current interests of the country and economy.’
Under the new rules, anyone wishing to become a permanent resident will have to earn their right to citizenship. This will restrict the number of economic migrants granted citizenship – for example, by limiting citizenship to those who have the qualifications or skills that the economy needs, or who are living in parts of the country where there are specific skills shortages that they can fill. They will also have to demonstrate that they can speak good English for their application to be successful. Source: UK Border Agency.