The University representative group, Universities UK, has welcomed Home Office moves to weaken its plans to clamp down on international student numbers in government educational institutions, Education Investor reports.
In a statement yesterday, Home Secretary Theresa May announced changes that she said would “re-focus the student route as a temporary one… designed to ensure students come for a limited period, to study not to work”.
The moves would cut the number of student visas by up to 80,000, around a quarter of the total, she added.
The changes involve raising the level of English required to qualify for a visa; raising the regulatory requirements for bodies that wish to sponsor overseas students, so that only those that have “highly trusted status” qualify; and clamping down on students ability to work while studying.
The moves are likely to hit private, language and further education colleges particularly hard.
But following a consultation, the government has made a number of concessions designed to placate universities.
The sector had warned that they would find it harder to recruit international students if the government clamped down on further education colleges. Now the government has promised to protect such “pathway courses”, where universities act as sponsors.
Despite warnings that blocking graduates from working would also hit recruitment, the government has also stood by plans to scrap the “post-study work visa“, which allows students to work for two years after their courses have finished.
But graduates who have an offer of skilled job from a sponsoring employer will now be allowed to remain.
Universities UK chief executive Nicola Dandridge said that the proposals “take into account many of the concerns expressed by Universities UK and will allow British universities to remain at the forefront of international student recruitment”.
International students are worth £5 billion to the UK each year, she noted, adding: “These proposals will allow that economic and cultural contribution to continue.”
Sally Hunt, General Secretary of the Universities and College Union, was less impressed, however. “The government’s student visa plans are short-sighted and risk sending out the worrying message that the UK is closed for business,” she said. Source: Education Investor.
Habib Rahman, Chief Executive of JCWI said:
“It’s in no one’s interest to have anything but bona fide colleges in the UK. However, these measures will discriminate against students from developing countries by subjecting them to different and more exacting requirements. They are also entirely at odds with the Government’s wider objective of stimulating growth through the private sector.’
Universities and government owned colleges should benefit from the Home Secretary’s measures, which are largely aimed at private colleges.
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