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Tackle visa abuse, but not at the cost of genuine students say Universities UK | Immigration Matters

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In a blog for the Guardian this week, Nicola Dandridge of Universities UK warns that tough talk on immigration will frighten away the talent our colleges need.

You report on the government’s moves to clamp down on student visa abuses by colleges (Visa curb warning, 2 November). The article says Universities UK is issuing “a warning” that cutting such courses is “damaging Britain’s reputation” in education.

We’d like to make it clear that abuse of the immigration system has to be dealt with robustly, and we support the government’s efforts in this respect. If a college is defrauding and abusing the system, it is quite right that their licences should be withdrawn or they be shut down.

Our concern lies in the way in which these issues are being presented. As you report, the changes are described by immigration minister Damian Green in terms of counteracting “widespread abuse of the student visa system”. Yet a number of the measures relate to restrictions of the options available to genuine international students during their time in the UK. Clearly there have to be limits to what an international student can do in this country: whether they can work, who they can bring with them and how long they can stay. But to conflate discussion about the limits of those entitlements with the need to combat fraud and abuse is damaging.

International students are much sought after across the world. They bring valuable cultural, diplomatic and economic benefit with them. They contribute £5bn to UK earnings each year, making a huge difference to local economies. The students come to the country and then leave, without recourse to public funds. Of those who stay, many end up teaching and carrying out world-leading research. In a deeply competitive and global market, inter–national staff make up a large proportion of university staff, without whom many departments would not be viable, or at best would be significantly weakened.

The government’s recent measures to clamp down on net migration, and limit the right of genuine students and staff to come into the country to study and work in universities, is playing badly internationally. UK universities are losing top students and staff to other countries whose governments are more welcoming. Students from the Indian subcontinent in particular are choosing to go to other competitor countries, with some UK universities reporting drops of 30% or more.

Contrast our Home Office announcements of clampdowns and measures “beginning to bite” with Australia recently announcing a new government-appointed council to develop “a new long-term strategy for the international education sector”. The difference is not lost on international students and staff.

There is a solution here. We must continue to work constructively with the government to eliminate fraud. The record of universities is strong, but there is always more that can be done. However, issues of abuse should not be bundled in with discussions about the circumstances in which legitimate international students can come and study. Source: The Guardian.

Earlier this week English UK, an association representing more than 450 language colleges, said the alleged error could bankrupt the institutions. Its lawyers are demanding senior Home Office officials issue an immediate apology and retraction.

The combination of new UK Border Agency ‘Highly Trusted Sponsor’ regulations introduced this year and the new Tier 4 student visa rules, has increased costs whilst destroying the market for private education providers – hence the 400 closing their doors or simply opting out of the new Highly Trusted regime.

The new student visa rules do not affect Bulgarians and Romanians coming to the UK on Yellow Card registration permits to work and study on vocational courses such as NVQ or QCF courses in Health and Social Care

See also:

UK University applications drop 9% as higher fees and student visa crackdown takes effect

English UK seeks apology from Home Office over ‘bogus colleges’ claim

UK Border Agency announce further changes to the student visa system


New Tier 4 sponsor guidance published for Highly Trusted Sponsorship – will your private college qualify?


Post Study Work Visa to be abolished April 2012 as part of student visa clampdown

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