Another report confirms fears that the government’s student visa clampdown is having a detrimental effect on the higher education sector and the UK economy.
A cross-party group of British Members of Parliament (MPs) say students should be excluded from net migration statistics, Times Education reports.
In a report released today, the Home Affairs Committee argues that this would allow the government to achieve its aim of reducing net migration to below 100,000 by 2015 without damaging the economy, to which international students contribute several billion pounds.
The work of the UK Border Agency (December 2011-March 2012) says that this migration target cannot be hit “without drastically reducing the number of people who come to study in Britain”.
“It is likely that this would damage a strong sector of our economy and also the cultural diversity of our universities,” it says.
The report says that it is “important” that the UK “does not fall behind its international competitors in this market” by making itself less attractive to students.
Earlier this year, a group of UK universities called on the government to remove overseas students from immigration figures.
Tough anti-immigration rhetoric and visa restrictions are not helping, as UK universities heads complained to the government last month.
The latest warning came from 68 university chancellors who claimed that the UK’s Tier 4 visa immigration policy risked damaging the UK universities and genuine students could be discouraged from applying.
Universities UK, which represents 134 higher education institutions, recently cautioned that Britain will lose billions of pounds unless the coalition urgently abandons new immigration rules for overseas students.
On 8 July The Sunday Times reported that the prime minister, David Cameron, was considering such a change.
But Damian Green, the immigration minister, told the committee that it would be a “denial of reality” not to count students in the same figures as those coming to Britain for other reasons, such as to work.
The committee’s report also recommends that face-to-face interviews become compulsory for all foreign students “where it is practical and appropriate to do so”.
“This will uphold public confidence in the immigration system and help to counter damaging government rhetoric which conflates a reduction in the number of student visas with eliminating fraud in the system,” the report says.
It also recommends that what it calls “bogus colleges” should be subject to “unannounced, robust and thorough” inspections.
Overseas students in the UK are complaining they are trapped in a legal limbo by visa delays which mean they do not have the right either to stay or go back home, a BBC report has confirmed.
Student visa holders claim they have waited for up to five months without their passports.
Hundreds have signed a protest petition claiming their “basic rights” are being denied by delays in processing visas.
The UK Border Agency said applications from students would be “worked through by the end of the summer”.
The National Union of Students (NUS) says this is becoming a “serious problem” and a “complete outrage” which puts at risk the ability of UK universities to attract overseas students.
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.
Following a raft of student visa clampdowns, the UK has this month launched a global charm offensive to convince foreign students it is “not against immigration”, Damian Green has said.
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