Language schools around the Thanet area of Kent in the South East of England say the millions of pounds their students bring into the isle’s economy could be hit by proposed new immigration rules, the online publication ‘This is Kent’ warns.
The government is considering introducing stricter rules on visas in a bid to stamp out bogus colleges which act as a front for illegal immigration and terrorism.
Last month Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced that the government would be reviewing the rules on student visas issued for below degree level courses.
Legitimate schools in Thanet say the proposals would reduce the number of students coming to the isle, without dealing with the issue of phoney schools.
Peter Worley, principal of Broadstairs’ Hilderstone College which takes hundreds of students from around the world every year, said: “The proposals will not deter illegal immigrants from entering the UK, but they will stop many thousands of genuine overseas students from studying in the UK and contributing hugely to the economic wellbeing of the country.
“Here at Hilderstone College, and in large numbers of other institutions, we have already seen the effect of the current system on enrolments, with many students from countries like Korea and Japan turning their backs on the UK and opting to spend their money and have their education in Australia, the US and other competitor countries.”
The thousands of students who take courses in language schools and colleges around the isle are estimated to put around £14 million a year into Thanet’s economy.
Some schools fear they could see a 30 per cent drop in enrolments if stricter rules are imposed.
South Thanet MP Steve Ladyman met immigration minister Phil Woolas last week to discuss the schools’ concerns.
He said: “Phil has assured me that he is working with the trade group that represents language schools and I am confident the changes he makes will not affect them.
“His own constituency of Oldham has a large number of language schools so he is very aware of their concerns.
“After big companies like Pfizer, they are the most important industry in all of Thanet, not just because of the schools themselves, but because of the many host families who are paid to put the students up.”
Schools have set up an online petition against the changes, which can be accessed at petitions.number10.gov.uk/PBSReview.
Students are worth around £8 billion to the UK economy according to the Home Office figures.