In a speech last week, Minister of State for Immigration Damian Green said it was time to be more selective about who could come into the UK and how long they could stay.
He was talking in particular about the UK Student Visa and cited two main reasons for considering restrictions – the first being the current unemployment levels in the UK, and the second the unpleasant and widespread “abuse” of the system by bogus student and/or bogus universities and colleges.
Despite the fact that international students coming into the UK contribute 5 billion pounds to the economy annually, it seems likely that the government will soon impose strong visa restrictions on students from India and other non-EU countries; this as part of their promise to reduce immigration by 40 percent.
According to Green, “allowing unfettered access to the jobs market for two years to anyone with a student visa from abroad is putting an unnecessary extra strain on our own graduates.”
Figures from a couple of weeks ago show that graduate unemployment is at its highest level in more than a decade, with a fifth out of work.
Education leaders are concerned that restrictions could have dire consequences for the education sector, which is already competing to attract quality students. But Green insists that legitimate higher education need not be affected, only bogus institutions and those coming into the country under false pretences.
“Too many come to do courses below degree level as a cover for staying and working.” Green said. “The primary objective of studying in the UK must be to study, not to work or to acquire long-term residency status.”
Green has promised that there will be a greater emphasis on quality and that abuse will be driven from the system.
According to immigration figures, 91,000 people came into the UK in 2010 to study at institutions not verified as “highly trusted”. Soon only universities and colleges with “highly trusted” status will be able to offer courses below degree level and inspections will become a commonplace measure to ensure compliance.
Prospective students will also face tougher English language tests and need to show evidence of academic progression in order to extend their studies.
A government consultation process is currently underway and we expect to hear the results of this process in the coming weeks.