The economic impact of reducing the number of international students through visa restrictions could cost the British economy £3.4 Billion, the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee said this week.
The Government had earlier in the year announced stricter visa regime for international students which include tougher restrictions on work, increased scrutiny of private institutions as well as stricter English tests.
Ministers are hoping that these measures would help them reduce the number of net migrants to tens of thousands. It is estimated that the new student visa regime would see international student numbers dropping from quarter of a million each year to 175,000.
However, the MPs criticised the decision by the Home Secretary Theresa May and the coalition government for ignoring the Home Office’s official assessment of the policy. According to official impact assessment the policy on tier 4 student visas would cost £3.2 Billion to the UK economy.
But the Home Secretary told the committee that she does not agree with the assessment because they do not incorporate cost of public services and dismisses the assumption that if a student does not come with a visa and work in Britain, that job will not be filled by anyone else.
She said: “I have asked the migration advisory committee (MAC) – and I am not going to pluck at figures from thin air – to look at these issues to see if we can get to a point where we can get a better assessment and a better judgment of the true picture, in relation to the costs or otherwise of the decisions that we are taking, because I do not believe that the impact assessment gives a full and true picture at the moment.”
But the Home Affairs Committee is not accepting the Mrs. May’s argument. “The home secretary’s dismissal of the impact assessment is very disappointing,” Keith Vaz MP, the Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee said.
“The government appears to be not only making policy without adequate immigration statistics, but also ignoring its own evidence,” he added. “”We reiterate the need for an immigration policy which is both evidence-based and does not adversely affect the British economy.”
Immigration minister Damian Green said: “The changes were introduced after full and extensive consultation. The extent of the crisis which this government inherited in the immigration system meant that tough early action was necessary.”
The Scottish Affairs Committee, in a related development, has concluded that the student visa restrictions would affect Scotland disproportionately. Source eGov Monitor.
Cynthia Barker of Bison UK immigration advisers said:
The impact of the student visa changes are already being felt by universities and especially by smaller private colleges, which have been placed at a disadvantage compared to government providers by the new tier 4 student visa working rules.
‘A number of universities are clearly struggling to fill places as international students turn to Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Many are offering discounts and flexible payment plans to attract overseas students.
‘Some regional universities are opening smaller London campuses in partnership with private colleges to offer 1 year top up degree courses – taught by the university’s own lecturers – at substantially lower fee levels.
‘For the student it’s a win-win situation: lower fees, London campus and a CAS from a university which means they retain the right to work.’
‘Armed with a UK degree, a student can find a job with a British employer outside of the immigration cap and without the need to pass the resident labour market test.’
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