As more foreign students reject the best UK universities, even the elite Russell Group is warning the Government that tougher visa rules are leading to a drop in international applicants.
As predicted by Immigration Matters some time ago, international students are spurning the UK’s most prestigious universities as a direct result of Government immigration curbs, The Independent reveals.
In an alarming report, UK universities in the Russell Group – which represents 24 top ‘red brick’ institutions, such as Oxford and Cambridge – are seeing a drop of up to 30 per cent in applications from Indian students for some courses.
The combination of ridiculously strict new UK Border Agency student visa rules, the ending of the Post Study Work visa and the negative publicity that followed the revoking of London Metropolitan University’s (LMU) licence to teach overseas students last month, is leading to a crisis in British education.
Whilst the drop in applications for courses starting this month follows the murder of Indian student Anuj Bidve in Manchester last Christmas, university leaders said the Government’s continued immigration clampdown and onslaught against overseas students in general were the decisive factors.
Russell Group Director General, Dr Wendy Piatt, said: “As ministers crack down on abuse of the system, they must be careful about the messages they send to the world’s best and brightest students.”
New visa regulations that came into force in April now mean students face tougher questions about their destination, limits on their ability to work and harder questions on their English-language capability. The Russell Group says overseas-student numbers must be maintained because educating non-EU citizens is “a major UK export industry” that brings in £2.5bn a year in fees alone.
The gloomy application figures come as Craig Calhoun, the new director of the prestigious London School of Economics, spoke of his “concern” about overseas recruitment in an interview.
The LSE Director revealed there has been a “modest drop” in the acceptance of places from international students because “people are worried about the possibility the Government might suddenly and without notice revoke visas”.
“If you are a bright student and you have offers from the LSE and Cambridge and Harvard and you haven’t got a visa for the UK, what are you going to do? Every year we have students turned down for visas for reasons we can’t fathom.”
He added that the London Metropolitan licence revocation fiasco, where the university has won the right for a judicial review of the situation, had done “untold reputational damage” to the UK higher education system.
Calhoun’s comments, echoed by many other universities, are the first signs of the impact immigration controls adversely affecting student numbers.
The Vice Chancellor of the University of East Anglia, Professor Edward Acton, also warned that “negative vibes” towards international students and academics were putting people off applying to UK educational providers. The university had already had one “near genius” mathematician unable to take up a post because of visa restrictions.
“The regulations said we couldn’t appoint him if anybody within the EU could do the job,” he said. “There was – but they didn’t take into account a stellar Russian who could get you a Nobel Prize.”
That restriction has now been lifted but Professor Acton said the repercussions could still be felt as his colleagues received the message it was impossible to get a visa to work in England.
The Government, and in particular the UK Border Agency, are systematically destroying a £40 billion British success educationa story. What’s more, they are screwing up the overseas education market, which employs many thousands of people, during a global recession and a downturn in local students put off by high fees and debts!
Even Government owned universities are not safe from the UKBA, as in the recent revocation of the London Metropolitan’s Tier 4 sponsors licence.
At least when a university goes down the whole world listens and ‘rescue funds’ are set up, unlike the students from private colleges who were left to sink or swim.
University chiefs were happy to smugly stand by and allow private colleges to be fed to the UKBA lions, but they overlooked the fact that those same so-called ‘bogus’ colleges were actually feeding them with thousands of students. Now they are crying – to the Government, media and even the unions – because they too are suffering!
Jobs will be lost, as some lesser universities may be forced to downsize or close, unless the UKBA reverse its destructive anti-student policies.
But the real victims are the thousands of international students caught in the crossfire. Not only are colleges closing every other day, when they do students cannot renew their visas without meeting new qualification criteria.
For some reason, students must obtain a new visa, from the UKBA, before they can change to another college – even if the college or university has been closed down by the UKBA.
Immigration Matters has received hundreds of comments and emails from Tier 4 students who have been left stranded and broke, after their college had closed down or been removed from the Tier 4 Sponsors Register or ‘Register of Sponsors Licensed Under the Points-based System’.
Cynthia Barker, Immigration Adviser for Bison UK, is receiving distressed calls from students on a daily basis.
She offers this advice for students who discover that their college or university has had their Tier 4 Sponsors Licence suspended, revoked or has simply closed down due to financial reasons.
‘The first thing to do is seek professional advice rather than worrying or hiding. Also talk to your college and find out exactly what is their status, as only they, the regulator and the UK Border Agency will normally have this information.
‘If your college has been suspended from the Tier 4 sponsors register you can continue studying until they get their licence back or your visa expires.
‘However, if their licence has been revoked you will normally be given 60 days in which to find another Tier 4 sponsor.’
Last month a senior Conservative minister demanded that the Government abandons its plan to reduce immigration by slashing student visas, a leaked letter revealed.
Higher education minister David Willetts told Nick Clegg he wanted more students coming to the UK, not fewer, despite admitting that the number who stay here illegally after their courses end is not known.
He is siding with the Lib Dems to insist the 250,000 non-EU students who come to Britain each year should be removed from the net migration figure, as clearly students on temporary visas are NOT migrants.
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