As the Government’s Student Immigration System consultation period draws to a close on Monday, more education leaders are warning that universities cannot afford to lose the fees of non-EU overseas students, the Guardian reports this week.
Government Ministers are putting the UK’s world-class universities at risk with their plans to cut the number of visas awarded to overseas students, higher education leaders told the Guardian yesterday.
The British Government is consulting over whether to cut back on visas for students from outside the European Union who come to the UK to do foundation courses, which are below the level of university degrees. Around 180,000 students came to the UK to do some of these courses in 2009.
Ministers fear that many Tier 4 students enrol with the intention of staying in the UK permanently, a route which is legally open to them through Tier 1 and Tier 2 of the Points Based System.
Plans to abolish the Tier 1 post study work visa, another ‘nail in the coffin’ which will directly hit Universities and providers of degree level studies, are finally causing alarm bells to ring in Chancellors offices all over the UK.
The Conservative led coalition, which has a target of reducing net migration to less than 100,000 from 215,000, want a higher standard of English should to be set for international students wishing to study in this country – even if they are coming to study English or their course includes English or ESOL tuition.
Last year new immigration rules were introduced which now require prospective Tier 4 Student Visa applicants to present proof of English ability if they are enrolling on courses below NQF level 6 and its equivalents, but excluding those students who are enrolling on Foundation degrees and HND’s in Scotland. Proof of English should be at a minimum of CEFR level B1.
But education leaders are warning that these proposals could threaten the very survival of some institutions, as well as adding to the growing impression that the UK is not welcoming to overseas students.
It is a well known fact that students from outside the European Union pay far higher fees than home or EU students. The Guardian cites Imperial College London, which charges more than £20,000 a year to overseas students for some of its courses, or over £60,000 for a 3 year degree programme.
Universities rely on international students for 9% of their income, a staggering sum at a time when the Government is cutting their budgets and increasing fees for resident students.
When the number of international students fall through the floor, Universities and FE Colleges will be badly hit, at a time when ministers are stripping universities of 40% of their teaching budget.
The government’s spending review cuts the higher education budget from £7.1bn to £4.2bn by 2014.
English UK, the English language teaching association, said:
‘A reduction in visas would prevent thousands of students coming to the UK.
‘Universities recruit nearly half of their overseas students from foundation courses.’
Toby Millns, chief executive of English UK, said international student fees subsidise home student places. “They keep courses and sometimes whole departments open… they are in some cases vital to the survival of the institutions.”
Nicola Dandrige, chief executive of Universities UK, called the proposals ‘damaging and dangerous’.
Paul Marshall, executive director of the 1994 Group, which represents small, research-intensive universities, warned that Ministers risked shooting themselves in the foot:
“Britain must not be seen [to be] adopting a hostile attitude towards foreign students. Reports are emerging of countries actively advising their students against [coming to] Britain … as a result of the perceived difficulties with the UK immigration system and the extremely damaging pictures of students repeatedly rioting on the streets of London.”
Damian Green, the immigration minister, said attracting talented students from abroad was ‘vital’, but the UK had to be more selective about who could come here and how long they could stay.
“People imagine foreign students to be those who come here for a few years to study at university and then go home to work. That is not always the case.
“Too many individuals applying to study at below degree level have been coming here to live and work instead. We need to stop this abuse,” Green said.
“We are working closely with the education sector and listening to their views as part of our consultation.”
Universities are finally waking up to the fact that a large chunk of their income is about to be snatched away from them just as sure as the double whammy of devastating budget cuts and the deterrent fee hikes for home students.
Some realise they will not survive a downturn in cash rich international students and will have to close or merge. This in turn will have a knock on effect to the UK economy struggling to come out of recession whilst repaying a trillion pound deficit.
There are just a few days left to take part in the Student Immigration System public consultation which will help shape the future of international student visa rules in the UK for the next few years.
If you want your views to be heard log on now and take part.
You can respond online to the consultation at: http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/student-consult-online
Immigration rules are changing all the time and whilst the above information will be correct at the time of going to press you should always check the UK Visas and UK Border Agency websites for updates.
Bison UK are offering a free initial immigration consultation for students – no appointment required.