UK Universities will lose billions of pounds unless the coalition urgently abandons new immigration rules for overseas students, campuses across the country have warned.
Universities UK, which represents 134 higher education institutions, is writing to the prime minister urging him to rethink recent changes to the student visa system, the Guardian reports.
The changes – aimed at meeting the Conservatives’ election pledge to cut migration by “tens of thousands” by 2015 – place a limit on the number of years non-European Union students can spend studying and restrict the number of hours of paid work they can do during and after their degrees.
In addition, they are no longer allowed to bring their spouses or children with them unless they are enrolled on a postgraduate course that lasts more than a year.
40% drop in international students
These changes are likely to deter overseas students from coming to Britain, Professor Eric Thomas, the president of Universities UK, warned. The more than 405,000 international students currently at UK campuses enrich the cultural mix of the country and contribute billions to our economy each year, he said.
UK Universities also depend financially on these students – some charge non-EU students more than four times as much as home students. One has already reported it has seen applications from non-EU students drop by 40% this year.
“There aren’t that many income streams for universities to grow in the current economic climate and a 40% drop is going to cause a university to respond pretty rapidly,” Thomas said. Non-EU students bring £5bn to the UK each year.
At a conference in February on how immigration policies are affecting universities, Professor Julia King, the vice-chancellor of Aston University, said her institution had recorded a 39% fall in the number of applications from Indian students this year compared with last.
She added that there had been a decline of 29% in applications from Nigerian students. She put both down to Britain’s immigration policies.
As a result, her institution had £3m less income, which was “quite significant for an institution with a £120m turnover”. Birmingham’s economy would suffer at least a £6m loss as a result, she told the conference.
Universities believe David Willetts, the higher education minister, understands the problem, but ministers at the Home Office look at migration “from an entirely different lens”, Thomas said.
In China and India – the UK’s first and second biggest markets for overseas students – Britain is seen as “putting up barriers to entry”, he said. “The UK seems to be telling the world that it doesn’t welcome international students.
“Meanwhile, a number of other countries, such as Australia and Germany, are looking at making themselves more welcoming. The soft power of overseas students for our country is considerable. These students go back to their countries and become serious players.”
On Monday, MPs were told that universities and colleges are spending millions of pounds to navigate the government’s “Kafkaesque” student visa rules.
An institution such as the London School of Economics spends £250,000 a year trying to understand regulations governing the entry of non-European Union students, the public accounts committee heard.
Immigration Matters has reported on hundreds of how students enrolled on degrees at private colleges were being left penniless and stranded as institutions closed because visa restrictions made their businesses unviable.
Tier 4 students whose college has closed down find that they have just 60 days from UKBA’s notification to find an alternative college or to go home. And an alternative college meant paying out for another visa and another set of fees.
In many cases stranded students cannot gain entry to another institution because they cannot obtain certificates and references from their defunct college.
The Institute of Public Policy Research thinktank has argued that ministers have included overseas students in the government’s net migration count because they are more interested in playing the numbers game than in long-term migration.
Immigration Matters has previously warned against ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water’ student immigration policies.
The lucrative overseas student market has become increasingly financially important to UK universities. But a series of ‘crackdowns’ on overseas students and the abolition of the popular Post Study Work Visa in April(which allowed non-EU students to stay on after graduating to find a job) has angered students from some of Britain’s main markets such as India.
Many are now turning to other countries which appear to welcome foreign students, for instance Canada and Australia.
Anecdotal evidence from immigration advisers suggest an upsurge in immigration and visa appeal cases, as more refusals are dished out for cases which they say would have been granted in the past.
With a combination of high local fees and new visa rules deterring overseas students, many are predicting that some UK Universities may be forced to close.
Despite the abolition of student visa appeal rights, following the introduction of Tier 4 of the points based system in 2009, the waiting rooms at Taylor House and Hatton Cross First Tier Tribunal hearing centres look as packed as ever.
If your visa or other entry clearance for the United Kingdom (UK) has been refused, you may wish to make an appeal to the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal (IAT) First Tier Tribunal. Formerly known as the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal (AIT).
If you need any immigration advice or help with Sponsorship or Work Permits, Visa, ILR/Settlement, Citizenship, dependant visa or an appeal against a refusal please email:
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