UK government gives stronger indication on cutting student visas

11:16 am Blogroll, ITS Educational Services, UK Education

by Danny Harrington, Founder & Director, ITS Education Asia


As we reported back in October, the UK government is looking at making cuts to the number of student visas granted for university study as a means to make inroads to the total immigration figures. To recap, immigration has become a political “issue” over the past couple of years – the UK has a net immigration of some 300,000 people per year – and it was likely to have been one of the key ideas that led to so many people voting to leave the European Union.

Public opinion has the idea that growing the population by 300,000 migrants per year is somehow bad for the country. The same old tropes about “stealing” jobs and putting a “burden on resources” are wheeled out and seem to get the most attention in the media thus reinforcing them. Very little time is given to the productivity increases, the economic growth, the spending rather than saving of money, the enrichment of education, culture and the arts, the long-term network of economic and cultural links that are produced. The list goes on.

The lack of common sense being applied here just goes to show how politicised the debate has become. The government clearly feels it needs to “do something” to get public opinion on its side. It probably feels it is in a weak position right now and has one eye on up coming by-elections and the next general election which will all continue to be fought over Brexit – its key elements and its fallout. And as with so much these days, the whole thing is reduced to numbers, principally with a currency sign at the front.

So the Home Office has now made it clear it is looking at slashing 170,000 student visas per year from UK universities. That’s over half the current number. If you want to do economics, that’s 50% less money coming into the UK’s hard pressed higher education institutions from international students who pay much more for their courses as well. That’s 170,000 students who will go elsewhere to study and take not only their tuition fees to other countries but all the money they spend on rent, food, books, entertainment and so on. That’s a huge chunk of young, vibrant, clever, motivated people who will go on to jobs in other companies in other countries and stimulate their economies instead of the UK. That’s 50% fewer students to build economic, cultural and academic links between the UK and other countries in the future. And that’s 50% less of everything, 170,000 fewer people doing all these things every single year from now on.

The government has also confirmed its tier system of institution licences to recruit from overseas. Under this policy, institutions which have greater than a 10% visa refusal rate on the students it admits [some say it may be as low as 7%] will have their licence to give places to overseas students revoked. Given the government holds absolute discretionary powers over the award of visas, this means that by extension they now have de facto control of academia through the ability to cut off what is often a crucial funding lifeline for many institutions. This is a shockingly bad step. In a modern democracy, government simply cannot hold such a threat over education

It seems the politicians never learn. The UK refused Hong Kongers full passports in the years leading up to the handover back to China and so the the wealthiest and brightest went to Canada which welcomed them and modern Vancouver was created [simplifies I know, but that’s the gist]. If these plans are implemented, the same mistake will be the UK’s loss and somewhere else’s gain at a much larger scale. It is incredibly sad, especially when UK qualifications remain so well respected and desired all over the world.

Have you had visa problems for university study in the UK? ITS Education Asia can help. Our online BTEC provides years 1 & 2 of a UK degree and leads on to a final 3rd year for a full bachelors. All at a fraction of the price. Classes are live with expert lecturers and the BTEC has the advantage of being course assessed instead of exams. See here for details.

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