UK student visa update

9:14 am Blogroll, UK Education

by Danny Harrington, Founder & Director, ITS Education Asia
UK student visa update

The latest message coming from the UK government is that overseas students will continue to be included in the immigration figures and that as it makes efforts to reduce the net migration total, students will be part of those efforts. The BBC has reported that despite a hint from Chancellor Philip Hammond that students may be made exempt, the Prime Minister has now stated that this is not the case.

In short, this seems to mean that fewer student visas are going to be issued in the foreseeable future. In the first instance the main target is likely to continue to be shorter term English language study courses but this group has already borne the brunt of the immigration reduction efforts to date and there cannot be much left in that sector. There is currently a pilot scheme to create a two-tier system in higher education whereby favoured institutions [likely to be the top of the Russell group i.e. the UK’s top ten universities] can continue to admit overseas students at will and everyone else will be subject to quotas.

I won’t go into the rights and wrongs of this in any detail. It seems madness to me to restrict immigration in a sector that not only brings a net inflow of money to the UK via course fees and living costs, but, in my mind more importantly, brings a flow of bright young adults to the country who can contribute to both the educational and work landscape as well as establish crucial overseas networks when they return to their home countries or indeed locate elsewhere. The UK’s shutting off is a ludicrously backward-looking policy. But the immigration ‘debate’ has become toxic now to the point where it is no longer a debate but an emotionally charge shouting match. Common sense has long since departed the room.

What does this mean for students in Asia? Younger students are currently fine. Boarding schools continue to accept new students and have not been told that they will face any restrictions other than the fact they now have to make firm decisions to get visas processed properly. Conditional offers are almost impossible to give so you need to be sure about your applications. For older students there is much more uncertainty. Unless you are applying to a very high-end university you may need to get detailed feedback from your local agent or local British Council. It is a time consuming and expensive process to apply for a visa and you do not want to fail.

One option for overcoming the visa issue is to look at local options for gaining UK qualifications and definitely looking at the increasing number of online options. Two main points to note are:

  1. Is your priority gaining a UK qualification or experiencing life in the UK? If you mainly want the qualification then online and distance learning options are well worth looking at.
  2. Do you work well independently or do you prefer teacher-led? When looking at online you find different models. Some are distance learning so you have to do all the work on your own. Others, like our own ITS Online School, have high proportions of live lessons in their courses which is just the same as being in a physical classroom.

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