Universities UK response to Home Office update on student visa changes (UK)

2nd November 2011

Universities UK responded today to an update from the Home Office on its reforms of the student visa system.

The Home Office announced that, due to tough new rules and enforcement action to stop abuse of the student visa system, more than 450 education providers will no longer be able to sponsor new international students.

Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said: “Visa abuse within the university sector remains very low, but we support measures designed to weed out any remaining abuse and ensure that all education providers are fulfilling their duties as sponsors. Universities are continuing to work closely with the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to improve the student immigration system.

"Beyond the substance of these arrangements, it is essential that the government considers the way in which the rules are communicated externally. It’s important that the UK appears ‘open for business’ to those individuals who are genuinely committed to coming to the UK to study at one of our highly-regarded universities."

"We must also be conscious of the impact that cutting down on pre-degree courses is having on our universities. Many universities operate pathway programmes with a range of providers. It is estimated that more than 40 per cent of all international students arrive through this means."

Universities UK has been arguing that international students should not be counted in the net migration figures.

Nicola Dandridge added: “Universities UK believes that the numbers of international students coming in to the country should be accounted for separately, and not included in the definition of net migrants for the purposes of government policy. International students are not economic migrants. They come to the UK to study, and then they leave. The vast majority of international students return home once their studies are completed, and those that do not, need to reapply for a separate visa.

"International students contribute massively to UK Universities, both academically and culturally, and contribute over £5bn to the UK economy through tuition fees and off-campus expenditure. This is a success story for the UK, but there is no shortage of global competition."

Universities UK said that the UK cannot afford to make costly mistakes such as those made previously in the USA and Australia. Ill-thought out cuts in those countries seriously damaged their universities’ international competitiveness.

Source: Universities UK  http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/Newsroom/Media-Releases/Pages/HomeOfficeupdateonstudentvisachanges.aspx