Probably the most pressing concern over the last month or so has been the very extensive reports of visa delays in a whole range of countries (with much media coverage in Hong Kong and even a petition in India) with large numbers of students worried that they would not get their visas in time to start courses this autumn. Following reports from many of you, I therefore wrote formally to senior officials in UKVI (copied to various other government departments and agencies) on 1st September asking for (a) an explanation of what was causing the delays and (b) an assurance and some detail of the ways in which these problems were being addressed and resolved.
You will have seen the outcome in various e-news reports over the last couple of weeks and we were pleased to see firstly the assurance that more resources were being urgently redeployed to reduce the backlog and secondly that ‘refusal rates’ in terms of BCA (Basic Compliance Assessments) would be protected and then students not have their visas refused and have fees refunded, if visas could not be processed in time. But perhaps of most significance the assurance that the majority of outstanding applications would be cleared by 23 September.
We can only hope now that they will be or have been – but if you are still experiencing problems next week please do let us know with a note on the forum.
‘Thinking about work in the UK after your studies?’
It may seem early in the cycle but many students of course may, even as they arrive, be wondering if they might be able to get some work experience after they graduate so as you may have seen we have recently featured much more prominently on our website a guide to all the various schemes. I must say, as we know, that it is a pretty complex picture but I hope you (and your students) will all find it helpful to have this guidance all in one place.
Colleagues here recently gave a presentation on the main aspects at the recent AGCAS conference which I understand was of very considerable interest so if you don’t yourself work in careers services, perhaps you would pass on to colleagues who do.
Other website additions
You may also have spotted that we also have recently added
- A blog for students on ‘6 things you may find different in the UK’
- A re-released blog for staff by Ally Layton-Bennett,International Student Support Officer at York St John University, on the PG Certificate in International Student Advice and Support which we offer with the University of Nottingham. Ally highlights the significant benefit this level of professional development can have on members and institutions (the deadline to apply this year is approaching – submit asap!). Look out for a new blog from a recent graduate next week.
- Some thoroughly engaging videos for students from Scotland and the ‘We are international’ team (winners I see of yet another award, this time from PIE News).
- A guide for Students Unions on immigration matters (including sabbatical posts) and
- Full details of our complete training programme for the year and our three new members meetings (free to Primary Contacts and a guest) in Glasgow, Manchester and London
Also, not on our website but on the Guardian’s, it was good to see this week various mentions of UKCISA and work we had encouraged and supported in a piece on ‘Helping international students feel at home’ and a nice little youtube video on the special welcome which the City of Newcastle is arranging for international students this year. Let's hope many others are doing likewise.
UKCISA grants for pilot projects and research
Talking of which I hope you will also have seen the list of projects which we have agreed to fund this year and many thanks both to those who spent much time putting together such strong applications and to those colleagues who helped us with the tricky task of assessing them.
Sadly we were only able to support around one third but the range really shows just how much energy and creativity exists in the sector and how committed it is to not just saying but demonstrating that the UK really is the most welcoming of destinations.
International student policy
Finally, I don’t know if you have spotted that although the summer period tends to be pretty quiet in ‘Whitehall’, with politicians and many senior officials away, there often seems to be a tendency for reports to sort of sneak out without much fanfare.
- The first was of course the new assessment of how many non EU students actually leave the UK when their visas expire (which our President, Lord Bilimoria, felt should have been released when Parliament was in session to allow debate, given its huge importance and implications).
So perhaps two main messages coming out of this.
Firstly that these declines in both FE and ELT are very real concerns and show aspects which need to be urgently addressed - especially as we always argue that there is a critical ‘pipeline’ and inter-relationship between ELT, FE and HE.
But secondly, if you add all those together – and if my maths is correct – you still get a very substantial increase since 2010 and a total figure of some £15.5 billion of direct earnings in 2014 (to institutions and to local communities and economies) just from students physically coming to the UK.
Useful evidence of course, coming direct from government, when the time comes to present it, with much else besides, to the MAC Inquiry.
Very best wishes
Dominic Scott, Dominic Scott, Chief Executive, UKCISA