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As UK Home Secretary Theresa May announced sweeping plans to slash the number of student visas by up to 80,000 this Month, University Chancellors must be feeling relieved that whilst the government’s measures may not have served up the ‘match’ and delivered all they were lobbying for, they definitely have ‘advantage’ over their privately owned rivals.

May said that student visas were being abused and “too many were here to work and not to study”.

Summary of changes, welcomed by University representative group Universities UK, include:

  • Only students studying at universities and publicly funded colleges will be allowed to work. Students at private colleges will have no right to work.
  • Only postgraduate students at universities and government-sponsored students will be able to bring their dependants.
  • The maximum time limit on a student visa will be 3 years at lower levels and 5 years at higher levels.
  • Increased English language requirement with Students coming to study at degree level required to speak English at an ‘upper intermediate’ (B2) level, rather than the current ‘lower intermediate’ (B1) requirement
  • Tier 1 Post-study work route, which allows students 2 years to seek employment after their course, will close in April 2012, but graduates who have an offer of a skilled job from a sponsoring employer under Tier 2 will be able to switch.

The new rules, due to be implemented on 21 April 2011, clearly favour publicly owned universities and colleges in a number of areas including the right to work, dependants and post study options.

For instance, which option will you choose if you are a non-EU student faced with the following choice:

  • Private college (even with lower fees), but no work allowed and no dependants, or;
  • University, with higher fees but with the ability to work 20 hours per week and bring your dependant.

You don’t need a PhD to work it out!

Government funded institutions such as the University of Bedfordshire, which has increased the numbers of international students from 400 to over 4000 in the last few years, have faced stiff competition from private colleges offering similar courses with lower fees.

Whilst everyone accepts that Universities offer a higher standard of facilities and a superior ‘student experience’, many students have still gone for the cheaper option.

The recent fee increases for resident students have not helped the sector already hit with recession-fuelled funding cuts.

The Tier 4 restrictions on private colleges should provide a welcome boost for institutions like the Luton based University, which works hard to accommodate the needs of its international students, who come from China, India, Pakistan and a host of other countries across the globe. They have invested millions in state of the art facilities and a sparkling new accommodation wing less than a minute’s walk from the main campus.

A number of Filipino students, who held nursing and other degrees in the Philippines, have recently enrolled at the University to take UK nursing degree and post graduate courses mainly due to its flexible approach to prior learning and experience.

One advantage of taking a degree course at Bedfordshire is that the faculty will take into account your previous degree qualification and allow you to gain a UK qualification in as little as one year.

One Filipina nurse here on a student visa sponsored by a private college, switched to Bedfordshire when her visa expired because will be able to earn a Bachelors Degree in Nursing by taking only the final year of a 3 year course.

Home Office studies have shown that overseas students, worth £5 billion to Universities alone, at government funded institutions are much less likely to break the immigration rules or come to the UK just to work.

Time will tell whether or not the Home Office action has struck the balance right between controlling abuse and promoting the estimated £40 billion British education market abroad.

See also:

UK student visa restrictions announced by Home Secretary

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

Universities UK welcome student visa action by Home Office

Cross party MPs warn student visa proposals could ‘cripple’ sector, BBC reports

If you would like more information on the University of Bedfordshire email joanna or call 0208 905 1822.

If you need any immigration advice or are worried about the new immigration rules or need help with Sponsorship or Work Permits, Visa, ILR/Settlement, Citizenship, dependant visa or an appeal against a refusal please email: 

info@immigrationmatters.co.uk or visit www.immigrationmatters.co.uk 

Bison UK are running special free student visa seminars to advise students on the new Tier 4 changes and their renewal options.

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