The Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, in her speech to the Conservative Party Conference announced new plans to restrict still further the numbers of international students coming to the UK, or staying on to work, as part of overall plans to cut levels of net migration.
UKCISA was concerned however that numbers of points appeared to be either inaccurate or misleading.
She said that:
- “The government will look for the first time at whether our student immigration rules should be tailored to the quality of the course and the quality of the educational institution” when the Home Office already requires all Tier 4 sponsors to be approved by the Quality Assurance Agency (or Independent Schools Inspectorate). Quality measures are therefore already in force.
- “The current system allows all students, irrespective of their talents and the university’s quality, favourable employment prospects when they stop studying” when only 5000 international students out of 430,000 were able to meet the stringent tests to qualify last year.
- “While an international student is studying here, their family members can do any form of work” when only those on postgraduate courses of at least 12 months (or government-sponsored students on courses of more than six months) are allowed to bring any dependants with them.
- “And foreign students, even those studying English language degrees, don’t even have to be proficient in speaking English” when all students, studying any subject, currently have to meet minimum English language levels, set by the Home Office in reading, writing, listening and speaking.
- “We need to look at whether this one size fits all approach really is right … and we need to look at whether this generous offer for all universities is really adding value to our economy” when the government’s own International Education Industrial strategy report in 2013 showed earnings to the UK of £13.5bn. And an analysis of both income and costs, in institutions and in communities, in Exeter, Sheffield and London have all shown very substantial net benefits.
Dominic Scott, UKCISA’s Chief Executive, said
'We are willing, once again, to present these facts and evidence to the government in any consultation but it is vitally important for the points to be recognised and understood. International students bring income, influence and employment to the UK. Limiting still further those who come - or the small number whose specialist skills are needed by British business and industry - will have minimal impact on levels of net migration but could cause real damage to reputation, to institutions and to local economies’.