News Dec 23rd 2016

The UK Has a Plan That Could Cut the Number of Student Visas in Half 

Foreign students

Education Guardian reports that the Home Office is working on making student visa restrictions tougher, slashing the number nearly in half in the UK. University officials are concerned; they feel that this will cause even more good students to lose their visas.  

At the Conservative Party conference in October, Home Secretary Amber Rudd vowed to crack down on the number of international students via tougher rules for lower quality courses and universities. Other officials report that cutbacks could be even greater than expected, and that the Home Office is working to reduce student visas from 300,000 to only 170,000 per year.  

International students bring in more than 10 billion pounds into the UK economy. University heads describe the cuts as “insane” and say that “politics is trumping economics.” 

“The Home Office seems to have decided that cutting international students is the only way of delivering the manifesto target of getting net migration down to the tens of thousands. But it doesn't address people's concerns about immigration. The problems people are seeing on the ground are certainly not caused by international university students or staff,” says the vice-chancellor of Cardiff University, Professor Colin Riordan. 

Part of the visa process are “credibility interviews”; some vice-chancellors are saying that very capable students are being turned away. Many of these heads are worried that if they speak out, they could suffer when it comes to the counts for future applicants. Some have reported visas being denied for trivial reasons; international students may also be asked questions not posed to domestic students. Students from India seem to be having an especially difficult time, as they are being told that courses of equal quality are offered in their own country. 

“If we genuinely want to be open to the world and a global leader in free trade, we can only do so by welcoming talent. Even a hint that students are unwelcome, and they will go elsewhere,” says Sir Keith Bennett, one of the vice-chancellors at Sheffield University.  

Due to these changes, Canada and Australia are taking advantage by welcoming outstanding students who had trouble with the UK visa system.  

Many say that the reason UK universities are so excellent and sought after is precisely because they are international. International students praise the education system in the UK and contribute greatly to its continued success.  

The Teaching Excellence Framework, a league table, alarms some universities because they worry that the Home Office is using this to help them determine which universities are lower in quality. Some of the UK's most renowned universities, including Bristol and King's College London and the London School of Economics are not predicted to rank highly, which could have detrimental consequences to the visa selection process and the education system itself.  

According to Rudd, universities who don't “stick to the rules” are those that have higher visa refusal rates. Current rules state that universities won't be able to recruit if more than 10 percent of their recruits are refused a visa. Some reports say that the Home Office may drop this rate as low as 4 percent, which would cause many universities to fail. 

The Home Office responds with the following statement: “Claims the Home Office is modelling cuts to reduce international students to a third [i. e. 100,000 a year] are categorically untrue. We want to strengthen the system to support the best universities – and those that stick to the rules – to attract the best talent. The British people have sent a clear message that they want more control of immigration and we are committed to getting net migration down to sustainable levels in the tens of thousands.” 

Many say that changes are unnecessary and that the system is functioning just fine as it is. 

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