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International students face new global crackdown | Immigration Matters

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The BBC reports that “unscrupulous” recruitment agents who bring bogus overseas students into the UK are being targeted in an international initiative.

The British Council has for the first time brought together countries including the UK, the US and Australia to try to keep out such students.

The council says there are “widespread concerns” about dishonest agents.

Universities say the majority of agents are legitimate and are an important way of finding overseas students.

Rogue agents are accused of falsifying documents and helping people to get around the student visa system, the rules of which immigration authorities in the UK have tried to tighten.

It is a problem that raises concerns about illegal immigration and the possibility of people with terrorist intentions coming into the country, although in many cases it is the students themselves who are being duped.

A meeting of immigration and education authorities in London, the first of its kind, is intended to co-ordinate a multi-national response.

Higher education has become a globalised market and the British Council says there needs to be an international approach to tackling fraud.

In particular there are concerns about agents fraudulently sending students from Pakistan, India, Kazakhstan and parts of Africa.

Legitimate agents recruit for a commission, which can be worth several thousands of pounds per student, bringing overseas students to universities, colleges and language schools.

Four out of five UK universities use agents, says the British Council, with “many thousands” of individual agents working in this expanding business.

The British Council says that some dishonest agents advertise courses as a route to migration and claim to “guarantee” success in admission tests.

Agents have also cheated honest applicants, who are misled into paying for courses at bogus colleges, which are nothing like the places that agents have described.

The British Council says agents have been caught passing off “two-room colleges as prestigious institutions”.

And, in some cases, overseas students have arrived with no-one to meet them, and nowhere to stay when they discover the colleges do not exist.

There are also concerns about “multi-national businesses which open up money-making colleges and then close them down, leaving students stranded”.

An inaugural meeting of English-speaking countries brought together representatives of the UK, the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the Irish Republic.

The UK Border Agency was among the representatives from the UK.

Pat Killingley, the British Council’s director of higher education, said competitor countries need to work together.

“We have common interests – we’ve all built up reputations for quality in higher education that we want to protect,” she said.

Universities and colleges could not operate without agents, she said, and their role was likely to increase.

As such, she said, it was vital that the small proportion of dishonest agents were stopped.

Countries will share information about dishonest agents and they will try to support legitimate agents, she said.

There could also be a code of behaviour for what remains a largely-unregulated market.

Overseas students worth £8 billion to UK

Financial pressures have made overseas students an increasingly important source of income for universities and the wider economy.

In the UK, overseas students are worth £5.3bn each year, according to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and £8 billion according to former immigration minister Phil Woolas.

In Australia, there had been a concerted drive to recruit more overseas students – but there has now been a shift to tighten entry rules.

In the United States, there have been ethical concerns about the use of agents.

Reports in the US have claimed that Chinese students have paid thousands of dollars each to agents to get a university place – with the university also paying a fee to the agents.

There are about 200,000 students from India and China alone in the United States – out of a total of about 670,000 overseas students.

Last year, the UK government began to introduce a tougher visa system for overseas students.

This included a more rigorously-vetted list of approved education providers, which aimed to prevent bogus colleges.

But instead of falling, the numbers of student visas issued in some countries rose sharply.

Between April and September 2009, 35,300 UK student visas were issued in India, compared with 20,294 in the same period the previous year.

In Nepal, for these months, the number of student visas surged from 369 the previous year to 6,658.

Visa operations suspended last year

In response to this increase, earlier this year all applications for student visas for the UK from north India, Bangladesh and Nepal were temporarily suspended.

There were 351,000 applications for UK student visas in 2008-09 – with 236,000 visa being issued.

The number of overseas students in higher education in 2008-9 in the UK is 251,310. This represents an increase of almost 50,000 in four years.

But Universities UK emphasised the usefulness of well-run agents – and said “tighter rules should help ensure that genuine international students and UK institutions are not duped”.

“Universities are experienced in looking out for fraudulent activities and aim to have good channels of communication across the sector and with partners in the UK and overseas, to identify and tackle problems,” said a spokesman.

“Sharing information is key to tackling fraud, and consideration is being given to further enhancing communications across the sector and with relevant partners.”

Figures on overseas students

  • 236,000 UK student visas issued in 2008-09
  • 115,000 applications rejected
  • Worth £5.3bn to UK economy
  • Applications temporarily suspended from north India, Bangladesh and Nepal
  • 670,000 overseas students in US
  • 200,000 students in US from India and China

Source BBC

This well meaning initiative will not stop rogue agents, but could have the effect of deterring already beleaguered students from coming to countries like the UK to study.

Far eastern Universities, for instance in Singapore, are waiting in the wings to grab their share of the international student market with world class educational programmes on offer at competitive prices.

Universities must monitor and check the quality of their overseas agents, which they have appointed to recruit students on their behalf. If an agent is acting in an unscrupulous manner the university must at very least cancel their agency.

Tier 4

The real reason student applications and visas increased dramatically last year is obvious – the points based Tier 4 system.

Rules were relaxed under Tier 4 and discretion taken away from Entry Clearance Officers (ECO) when the new system started in March 2009. At the same time the UK Border Agency introduced an all new ‘hub and spoke’ British Embassy visa section network, which meant that many local visa consulates (for instance in Pakistan) were closed and visa processing moved to offices thousands of miles away usually in another country.

Bring the old system back, where ECO’s are allowed to scrutinise applications and interview candidates and most of the problems would be solved overnight.

Home Office figures released last year show that overseas students, which do not include those in private colleges, are worth over £8 billion to the UK economy.

At a time when universities are facing a funding crisis at home, overseas students are needed more than ever.

See also:

Fast track your visa with UKBA’s ‘Super Premium’ service

David Cameron gets a ‘Clegg-up’ to become UK’s new Prime Minister

What does a hung Parliament mean for migrants?

United States to introduce new entrepreneur visa

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14 Responses to “International students face new global crackdown”
Read them below or add one

  1. jawad chak says :

    To,

    Whom it may concern,

    British High Commission.

    I am inquiring about my administrative review with post reference: Islamabad / 1670697 which was sent to you by my consultant on the 21st Febraury 2012. I had applied visa for

    Tier4(General) Migrant on 9th January with reference no (ISL/090122/194851/1) and it was refused on 8th February 2012. My application was assessed by you under paragraph

    245ZV of the Immigration Rules. In the refusal the ECO stated “You have claimed 30 points for your CAS. We have sought to verify the educational documents

    provided that your sponsor used to assess your suitability to follow your proposed course of study namely an unattested Higher Secondary Certificate Examination

    from Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education Bahawalpur”. The review was sent to you on the 21st Febuaury and as it has been quite a few days and I still havent heard

    anything or recieved any thing from

    you.

  2. maninder says :

    sir, can you tell me about amendment of rules of tier 4
    students visa extension. that what rules are changed by
    goverment,as many students saying that we have to go back to india to extend our visa, is it true? or no amendments of tier4 visa extension rules.

  3. how can i know if the school is registered under tier 4?

  4. Lal Chand says :

    Sir, We have sent the tuition fee of 3 students to Access College, London which was suspended and college could not issue CAS. The Visa application could not be filed. Now the College has refused to refund the amount without stating any reason. Pl advise to whom we should approach with full contact address, e-mail and fax number. Around 15000 GBP are blocked.

  5. I just want to ask a question about the situation of the applicant who are presently waiting for the result of his application for UK student visa that might probably be refused because the Evidence of his English ability is not stated on his CAS. Will all the applicants without the evidence of english ability on their CAS be refused?
    THank you.

  6. SIR,
    I HAVE APPLIED FOR A TIER4 GENERAL STUDENT VISA ON 14-05-2010,I WANT TO KNOW THAT CAN I GET VISA OR NOT I M ASKING BECAUSE THE GOVERNMENT HAS CHANGED IN UK PLZ HELP ME OUT

  7. I have send a administrative review to abu dhabi on 05-12-2009.sir due to my college licence onhold problem my administrative review decion was late but my college are clear on 26-04-2010. sir help me about my case.

  8. man ill suggest u, to dont come here in uk and dont waste ur money, here colleges r make money and wen u wil never pay money they wil say, they will report to uk border agency, every one is devil here, no work, evry one will use u like a donkey,,,, specily british paki, they r very very stupid, british people r nyc and their behvr is also gud, but our paki british, they r ????? hope u understand wat i mean to say

  9. […] International students face new global crackdown […]

  10. ANU THOMAS says :

    illegal agents should be targetted immediatly. they are bringing students everyday and these students are staying like in a camp. it is real fact ukba should take immediate actions

  11. I would like to ask you about the “Temporary Student Visa Suspension” for Bangladesh.Would you please inform me when the suspension would be lifted?

    And Thank you The Immigration Matters for informing the update information regarding the change of UK student visa.I hope will do the same in future.

  12. It is not clear from you message that which Tier your application falls. But is is my presumption that your Administrative Review is for Tier-4 General Student.

    Although the PBS Tier-4 Policy Guidance states that usually Administrative Review requests are decided within 1 month period, but the time limit may be long where verification checks are needed to be perform.

    Further, the British Embassy Abu Dhabi now processing Administrative Review requests within three months time maximum and giving the Results of Administrative Review on the emails of the Clients. So, you regularly check the email, which you have given on the Administrative Review Request Form as British Embassy reply you on this email address.

    I trust the above information will be useful for your purpose and if you need further information, please check the website of UK Border Agency and UK Visas or Consult with the Immigration Matters team

    Tanveer
    0334-5038194

  13. INAMULLAH says :

    SIR !
    I have send a administrative review to abudhabi on IST MAY2010 sir i confirming that when i should expect to reply of my review .kindly tell me about that

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