The Government has today called on people to take this opportunity to make their views heard on student visa reform.
The eight week consultation seeks views on a range of measures to reduce the overall number of students who can come into the UK. Proposals include:
- reducing the number of people coming to the UK to study at below degree level
- introducing a tougher English language requirement
- ensuring students wishing to extend their studies show evidence of academic progression
- limiting students’ entitlements to work and their ability to bring in dependants
- improving the accreditation process for education providers, alongside more rigorous inspections
Immigration minister Damian Green said: ‘I believe attracting talented students from abroad is vital to the UK but we must be more selective about who can come here and how long they can stay.
‘Our proposals are aimed at a more robust system. Too many students coming to study at below degree level have been coming here with a view to living and working, rather than studying. We need to stop this abuse.
‘I am pleased that so far people have been engaging with us on this issue, and we have received a substantial number of responses. I want to encourage those who haven’t had their say to do so now.’
The government has committed to making changes across the immigration system to achieve its overall aim of reducing net migration to sustainable levels, in addition to the introduction of an annual limit on workers from outside the EU. The student route accounts for two thirds of migrants entering the UK each year which is why it is a key focus for reform.
The new proposals could see tier four largely restricted to those studying degree level courses, unless the institution is a highly trusted sponsor.
English language competency could be a prerequisite for people wanting to study a higher level course and tier four applicants will have to pass an English language test showing competence at intermediary level B2, a step up from the B1 currently required.
The drive to ensure students return overseas after their course finishes could mean students will have to leave the UK and apply for a new visa to further their studies, and show evidence of progression to a higher course. It could also mean students are not given unrestricted access to work through the post-study route under tier one.
In addition, the Government is looking at ways to improve the inspection and accreditation of the education sector, to ensure the courses offered by private institutions of further and higher education are of the highest quality.
Notes to editors
1. The full consultation document ‘The Student Immigration System: A Consultation’ is available here - www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/student-consult-online
2. The eight week consultation was launched on 7 December 2010 and ends on 31 January 2011.
3. Current tier four and student visitor visa requirements can be found here - http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/studyingintheuk/
4. B2 is upper intermediate level English, a more advanced level of competency than B1 lower intermediate. B2 requires a learner to be able to converse on a wider range of topics, whereas B1 level is more focused on understanding public announcements and instructions. B2 equates to approximately 500-600 hours of study, compared to B1 which equates to 350-400 hours.
5. The highly trusted sponsor licence was introduced in April 2010. Only education providers with a proven track record of student retention and compliance can qualify for a HTS licence.