♦ new restrictions on foreign students entering the UK
• The four following articles are summarized below:
-Visa curbs will cut overseas students by 80,000 says Theresa May (The Guardian)
-Final detais of curbs on overseas studies to be announced (The Guardian)
-Cap on skilled migrants to be lower than level recommended by migration experts (The Guardian)
-Number of foreign students to be cut by 25 per cent (The Independent)
(the third article listed is from an earlier date, but contains relevant information.)
• On March 23, Theresa May the British “home secretary” announced drastic cuts in the number of foreign students who would be allowed to enter the UK in the future. Recently, the UK has been issuing more than 250,000 visas a year. The new regulations mean that that number will be reduced by approximately 70,000. This change was part of the government’s plan to reduce overall “migration” to less than 100,000 per year. (Students make up a large majority of all foreigners who enter the UK; the other main groups are dependents coming to join their families and foreign workers.)
• The following are some of the changes that were announced:
• it will be more difficult for foreign students to bring dependents with them to the UK;
• they will be able to do less part-time work while they are studying;
• the courses they take will have a maximum length of five years;
• it will be more difficult for them to stay and work in the UK for two years after completing their studies.
• Other changes concerned the role of English language competence and training:
• According to an article in The Guardian, “the standard is to be raised to intermediate proficiency as defined by the secure English language test but universities will be exempted from this requirement and be able to impose their own test.”
• Much stricter controls on language schools were proposed. (Speaking to Parliament, Theresa May emphasized that one of the government’s goals was to “clamp down” on schools that were abusing the system and only pretending to offer instruction in English to people who just wanted to get into the country. Summing up, she said the new law “will stop the bogus students, studying meaningless courses at fake colleges”)
• According to the Guardian, one important provision of the new law will be the establishment of a new “licensing” system — in other words, a new system for “accrediting” schools so the students they admit will automatically be given visas. There is another official category however: schools known as “Highly Trusted Sponsors” which the government feels are completely honest and which can be counted on to maintain high standards. However — although there are around 700 accredited “colleges” — only 113 have been given the “highly trusted” status.
• It is expected that as the new licensing system is put in place, many of the 600 or so colleges which are not “highly trusted”will lose their accreditation. As evidence for the need for more careful scrutiny of language schools, several examples of abuse of the system were mentioned by the government and in the papers. For example, the Guardian reported the discovery of a college of accountancy where 65% of the students did not know enough English to do the work and more than 20% knew no English at all.
• Despite the fact that, according to the British government, the purpose of the changes is to improve the quality of education, both educators and students seem to be somewhat nervous about the effect the changes will have on the “foreign student business.” They did express relief, though, that the cutbacks on student entry numbers were not as stringent as they feared they might be. Wendy Platt, the director of the “Russell Group of Universities” said she was reassured by the fact that, despite the cuts, universities would continue to be allowed “to sponsor the best-qualified international students,” and to emphasize the importance of this, she pointed out that “international higher education students were worth at least at least 5.8 billion to the UK economy every year.” And Christina Yan-Zhang, a spokesperson for the National Union of Students, said the government’s plan was “wrong-headed” and should be reconsidered. She added, though, that it could have been worse.