Tag Archives: foreign students studying in the uk

The Impact of the London Met Saga

Has the wider impact of London Metropolitan University’s Tier 4 licence suspension been properly considered?

Following the licence suspension of London Met, there has been around a 50% fall in British and EU student applications. Clearly London Met is suffering as a result, by what about the wider UK education sector?

Some people have interpreted the touch stance taken by the UK Border Agency (UKBA) with London Met as being an overall positive thing: Jason Kenney, Canadian Immigration Minister, is on the record as saying, “I read the London Met controversy as sending a strong message that the UK is going to maintain the integrity of its post-secondary brand to international students”.

Whilst it seems the majority of people can understand the motivation behind the UKBA’s actions in this particular case, may can’t understand the implementation. It’s actually hard to imagine how international students of London Metropolitan University could have been made to suffer any more – the fact that less than a month before the start of a new academic year in a foreign country they were told to find a different university, shows an apparent total disregard for their welfare.

So can we argue that the experience of international students at London Met has negatively impacted on the reputation of UK Education as a whole? Well, we could, but enough evidence is sparse at the moment.

Current data from the Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) paints a different story. Data released by UCAS in October 2012 showed an increase in applications: EU applications are up 1.8% and non-EU applications are up 5.1%. And despite the tighter restrictions on visas.

Further, UK universities actually believe that this upward trend is likely to continue. A recent Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) report projects a rise in income of 37% from non-EU students over the next three years. This doesn’t suggest there’s much of a faltering global reputation for UK Education.

The case for the London Met saga damaging the UK’s international reputation is also undermined by opinions of international students themselves. Whilst the story was widely covered in the UK, little attention was given to it overseas. In fact, many international students seem to know very little about the whole London Met controversy. What is more concerning to international students – and something they appear to be quite knowledgeable about – are the changes to study and post-study visas under the Points Based System (PBS).

But, as with any story that seems too good to be true, there are some important caveats. First, the UCAS figures are very early figures and selected form a very limited dataset, covering applications for Oxbridge and medicine courses. However, London Metropolitan University is closer to the bottom of UK University Rankings and the relevance of UCAS’ early figures to London Met – or similarly universities – is certainly questionable. It should go without saying that those international students applying to the UK’s top universities would generally be unconcerned by the London Met saga.

Second, the HEFCE report can also be easily scrutinised – “…these forecasts were prepared before the UKBA decision to revoke London Metropolitan University’s licence was announced”. Indeed, despite their own report, they are on record as saying there is a major risk of “reputational damage”.

So, whilst there is little evidence available today that the London Met saga has impacted negatively on the wider industry, it must be said that it is still probably too early to tell. Many people agree that the industry is on the edge of a slippery slope. Without doubt, over the past two years, it has appeared that the UK education sector has been under heavy attack – the London Met saga, as part of an accumulation of factors, could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. There is a very real danger of long-term damage.

The biggest area of concern is that the handling of London Metropolitan University could have set a precedent for future cases. Tougher visa restrictions, increased fees, further education budget cuts and a changing UKBA all provide a negative affect, which cumulatively , could have serious implications.

Another Misleading Report on Student Migration

New report claims 150,000 students are on overstay in the UK. This is incredibly misleading. Allow me five minutes of your time to explain why.

The misleading report has come about because of inefficiencies within the UK Border Agency (UKBA), for which it has been heavily criticised. The UKBA Chief Inspector of Immigration – John Vine – made a report on the state-of-play at the UKBA. He identified a backlog of 152,000 notifications of changes in students’ circumstances in the month of May alone. He goes on to say that there could “potentially” be scores of student migrants in the UK who are no longer complying with their visa requirements. Or indeed students whose leave should have been curtailed already, but no action had yet been taken by the UKBA. This large number of notifications of changes have come about because of the requirement on education providers in the UK to tell the quickly inform the UK Border Agency is students fail to enrol, fail to attend regularly or where the education provider knows of a significant change in a student’s circumstances.

Many people have been critical of the assumption that those students in the backlog are overstaying or even are still in the UK. Tony Millns, Chief Executive of English UK – the world’s leading language teaching association – said on the matter:

“Sponsors don’t want bogus or overstaying students, so they are scrupulously reporting everything that the law requires. The trouble is that often the system itself is at fault — for instance, if a student has a formal offer at two colleges, they will be reported as failing to enrol at the one they turn down. This report would brand that student as potentially overstaying, whereas they are studying perfectly legally at a different institution.

“It’s clear that the Border Agency hasn’t been pursuing most of these supposed 150,000 overstayers, because they know perfectly well that they don’t exist.”

The full breakdown of the 152,000 student backlog is as follows:

– 62,000 were classified as having significant changes in their personal circumstances. In reality, this could mean a number of things: transferring to a different course with the same education provider, or moving to a different site operated by the same education provider. There is little to suggest that this number creates concern with regards to non-genuine or overstaying students.

– 31,930 were classified as having failed to enrol on their course. The vast majority of this figure are created due to a poorly thought our system – a student who has applied and been offered places with more than one education provider, will be included in this count multiple times, once for each offer they reject. This leads to a significant inflation of the failed to enrol statistic.

– 29,000 cases were classified as sponsorship withdrawn. Again, the system fails to provide any useful, granular data. In many cases, the likely source of this figure is students who have legitimately chosen to change education provider and therefore change Sponsor under the UK Immigration Rules.

– 16,000 were recorded as discontinued studies. In the majority of cases, this means the student has decided to leave the UK and return home. However, the system in place at the UK Border Agency makes this impossible to check.

– 11,000 were recorded as having poor performance. This means that a student has missed 10 expected contacts with their education provider. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that education providers actually use this reporting method as a final warning to their students to get them back on track. Again, this makes understanding the data and its implication rather difficult.

– Lastly, a little less than 2,000 students were classified as potentially having breached their conditions of leave to enter/remain in the UK. Again, anecdotal evidence shows that education providers are using this reporting option when they believe a student has worked without permission, or above their permitted hours.

Do please tell me how any of the above classifications can be used to argue that 150,000 students are overstaying in the UK? I look forward to your comments on this issue.

The Demise of Tier 1 and the Threat to Business Education

There is no doubt that following the scrapping of Tier 1 Post-Study visa of the UK Points Based System student numbers are down. Many UK business schools have reported enrolments down compared to this time last year. The Association of MBAs contacted its 47 member education providers in the UK and discovered shocking concerns. Over 90% of members were against scrapping the post-study route, citing fears of damage to competitiveness, reputation and finances, not only of the schools themselves, but also the wider economy.

MBA degrees are targeted primarily at mature students who already have a wealth of business experience behind them. Many are taking the next steps in advancing their careers, often spending between £30,000 and £50,000 on tuition alone. According to a recent survey by the Association of MBAs, 51% of students are self-funded, 32% receive company sponsorships, 10% use bank loans and none receive government assistance.

The message of the Coalition’s immigration policy is precisely the opposite of the slogans: the UK is to all intents and purposes “closed for business”. The UK is also loosing the talent its universities are producing: it will become much harder for graduates to use the specialised knowledge, skills and networks that they have learnt during their course in the wide UK economy.

Before the UK introduced the Points Based System and the Post-Study Visa, the majority of international students graduating in the UK immediately returned home. There were simply few opportunities available in the UK and students. What has been important for providers of business courses in the UK is that the post-study route gave students an increased perception of opportunity, making the UK a highly attractive study destination. Sadly, this perception has now been deeply dented once again.

Unintended Consequences

Scrapping the post-study work route will have many unintended consequences and ultimately sends out a negative message about brand UK:

  • Reduced competitiveness: UK business schools will lose out to their competitors across the world. Currently 8 UK business schools are in the Top 50 of the world, but rankings rely on attracting the brightest and the best.
  • Loss of diversity: Internationalisation is a key ranking factor for universities and a reduction in international student numbers would harm UK business school rankings. Further, diversity and mixing with a broad range of cultures are pillars of the best business programmes.
  • Reduced revenue: Universities face the prospect of tight spending cuts and a significant loss in revenue from lost enrolments following the scrapping of Tier 1 Post-Study Work. In 2008, 73% of all students enrolled at UK business schools were international students. That is an average of 126 international students per UK business school. A serious amount of money.
  • Reduced labour force competiveness: A reduced recruitment pool of graduates in the UK will make international companies less willing to base or continue to base their operations here.
  • Wider UK economy damaged: Overseas business school graduates are a major export industry and boost UK investment in the long term due to the networks and ‘good will’ generated during their time as students. The UK currently trains, influences and exports business leaders from major global financial centres. In 2008, students from outside the EU comprised of 83% of all international students enrolled at UK business schools. The top non-EU feeder countries were: India (19%), China (5%), Nigeria (5%), the United States (4%), Singapore (4%), United Arab Emirates (4%), Malaysia (3%), Russia (3%), Egypt (3%) and South Africa (3%). A total of 83 countries were reported.

Global competition

The UK already faces strong competition from business schools in Europe, North America and Australia, markets which offer attractive employment opportunities to graduates. And high quality English-language MBA provision is expanding rapidly in emerging economies such as China, India and Latin America—these are the highest growth regions for accreditations by the Association of MBAs.

UK schools must compete at the highest level to attract students to its programmes and the consultation has already had a negative impact on MBA providers. While the new policies are not as bad as initially anticipated, the damage of the debate is already done. Much has been made in the foreign press, particularly in emerging markets, of the bad atmosphere for foreign students in the UK.

And while Tier 2 visas remain an option for graduates, many smaller companies such as start-up business ventures lack the resources and infrastructure to deal with the complexities of the bureaucracy surrounding that process.

Summary of New Tier 4 Student Policy

ACCREDITATION

All sponsors must have been accredited by either Ofsted and its devolved equivalents, QAA, the Independent Schools Inspectorate, the Bridge Schools Inspectorate or the Schools Inspection Service and all must become Highly Trusted Sponsors.

Sponsors will be required to achieve Highly Trusted Status by April 2012, and accredited by a relevant agency by the end of 2012. They will be required to apply for HTS status and accreditation by a date to be specified.

During the transition period there will be an interim limit on numbers sponsored by those who do not meet the above criteria.

Private providers will be able to provide courses, including pathway courses, by working in partnership and where the licensed sponsor takes responsibility and sponsors the student directly.

 

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

 

English Language requirement

B2 in each of the four disciplines is the appropriate level for those coming to study at level 6 (undergraduate) and above.

B1 is the appropriate level for lower courses, including the Pathways.

In order to get a visa, those outside of universities will have to present a test certificate from an independent test provider proving they have attained that level; universities will be able to vouch for a student’s ability where they are coming to study at degree level or above.

We will waive this requirement for truly exceptional students only following individual requests by university academic registrars.

UK Border Agency Officers will be able to refuse a migrant who cannot speak without an interpreter.

 

Evidence of student funding

All applicants to sign a declaration that the funds they present to meet the maintenance requirement are genuinely available for use in coming to the UK to study.  This will make refusals easier on grounds of deception.

We shall refuse applications where the bank statements are from a bank which we cannot trust to verify the statements. Local lists of proscribed banks will be established.

We shall introduce a streamlined process for low risk applicants going to Highly Trusted Sponsors, in general waiving the requirements to provide documents beyond the CAS and passport/ identity document.  This is based on robust supporting evidence of compliance and abuse.  This will bring about a system which is more targeted and responsive for both staff and applicants.

 

ENTITLEMENTS

 

Work during term and work placements

Students at Recognised Bodies (universities) will retain their right to work 20 hours a week part-time and to do work placements where the study : work ratio is 50:50.

Students at publicly funded FE colleges will continue to be able to work 10 hours a week part-time.

Other students will have no right to work part-time and work placements will have to be 66:33 in favour of study : work.

 

Dependants

For a student to sponsor a dependant, the student will have to be on a post graduate course (NQF 7 and above) at a university which is of more than 12 months’ duration, or a Government Sponsored student.

The dependants will be able to work.

 

 

AT THE END OF THE COURSE

 

Time allowed as a student

Maximum of 3 years at NQF 3-5 and 5 years at NQF 6-7.

For those at the higher level doing a PhD, there will be exceptions, as well as for those courses which require as a matter of professional qualification a longer duration than 5 years (e.g. medicine, architecture).

The sponsor will have to vouch for academic progression where students are not moving up to the next NQF level.

 

Post-Study Work

The current Post-Study Work route will be closed from April 2012.

Those graduating from a UK university with a recognised degree, PGCE, or PGDE will be able to switch into Tier 2.

There will not be a limit on these switchers.

They will only be able to switch if they are in the UK, before their student visa expires.

The normal Tier 2 requirements will apply, except for the Resident Labour Market Test.

We will ensure that genuine student entrepreneurs with a great idea are able to stay on in the UK to develop their business proposition.

Student Visa Cuts – 8 facts you should know

The UK education industry has taken quite a beating lately. Set against a backdrop of a shrinking economy and budget cuts of up to 40%, it is no wonder there will be job losses in the education sector and the wider public sector. We already know that 73 jobs are to go at East Durham College and even Cambridge University is not immune, with staff asked to consider voluntary redundancy. Clearly, education providers are feeling squeezed already and with the UK Coalition considering restricting the numbers of international students, here are eight key facts that should also be remembered. I invite anyone in support of the drastic reduction in student migrants to also consider the following facts in relation to their argument.

1.      Vital part of Economy: Worth some £40 billion, the export of education and training is the second largest contributor to the UK economy.

2.      Benefit the Wider Economy: For every £1 in income generated by education providers, 50p is generated in other industries.

3.      Subsidise Home Students: International student migrants from non-EEA countries provide 37% of total fee revenue for universities alone.

4.      Cultural Value: Bringing knowledge of different cultures to the UK benefits businesses wishing to expand overseas, as well as wider society.

5.      GDP Benefits: Those non-EEA international student migrants who graduate and remain in the UK contribute £1 billion every year to UK GDP.

6.      Fiscal Benefits: Those non-EEA international student migrants who graduate and remain in the UK contribute more than £100 million a year in fiscal benefits.

7.      Foreign Graduates not a Threat: The most recent independent research into the Tier 1 Post-Study Work category of the Points Based System clearly shows that non-EEA students who graduate and remain in the UK do not displace British citizens from jobs.

8.      Increase Competitiveness: In the US it has been found that a 6% rise in patents per capita can be attributed to a rise of 1% in the proportion of student migrant graduates. It is likely a similar relationship exists in the UK.

Video Response to Threat of Student Visa Cuts

Tony Millns, chief executive of English UK, took part in a press conference with other sector bodies such as Universities UK, UKCISA, Study UK and the National Union of Students, regarding the government’s plans to review Tier 4 of the Points Based System and raise English language requirements. The press conference took place at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre on Wednesday 26 January.

In a BBC News article published on 27 January 2011, Tony Millns was quoted as saying that the planned raising of the required language level would rule out 70-80% of students who currently study foundation courses.

He also said: “International student fees subsidise home student places, they keep courses and sometimes whole departments open. In some universities, where more than 60% of students are not home students, they are vital to the survival of institutions.”

Cross-sector Initiatives Begin in Opposition to Student Visa Cuts

English UK and Study UK this week joined other leading international education groups opposed to the Government’s proposals on student visas in a national press conference.

This is likely to be the first in a series of cross-sector initiatives to raise awareness of the dramatic consequences for Britain’s international and higher education sector, worth £10bn a year, if proposals including raising the language requirement to B2 for visa students become law.

The press conference was a joint initiative by Universities UK, the University of East Anglia, the National Union of Students, the UK Council for International Student Affairs, English UK and Study UK.

Each organisation expressed its alarm at the proposals in the Government’s consultation, intended to cut student numbers, warned that the proposals risked seriously damaging both the fragile British economy and the university sector, and questioned whether students, 97 per cent of whom leave within two years of their courses ending, should be included in migration curbs at all.

Tony Millns, chief executive of English UK, said international education was a growth sector for the UK at a time when the economy as a whole had contracted. Demand at all levels was growing and the UK had a high reputation for quality education.

However, the actions of the Government and the constant visa changes of the past three years were leading to a perception that the UK was not welcoming to students. “There is market scepticism about whether the UK is open for business,” he said.

He said the requirement that visa students must have reached level B2 in English -equivalent to a high A Level -would particularly hit international foundation year courses, which typically run for 44 weeks and prepare students for the demands of a UK degree course. At present, most of these students arrived at roughly A2/B1.

If the foundation course route was closed to large numbers of students, that would affect not only English UK members but have a “highly damaging” effect on universities, almost half of whose international students come from foundation courses. That in turn would damage university finances, as many are kept afloat by international student fees.

Susan J Hindley of Study UK said the sector would support proposals intended to eradicate abuse of the system, but the suggested changes went well beyond that.

Dominic Scott of UKCISA said the proposals on student visas were probably “the most radical for a generation” and had attracted 25,000 responses including many comments from students who had come to the UK expecting to be able to progress in their studies. “Students don’t want to settle in the UK. They want to get work experience and then go back to Shanghai or Taiwan and say, ‘I’ve got real credibility.'”

He added: “On a number of proposals I think the Government is beginning to realise it’s gone too far. I hope they will moderate that. if they don’t it will undermine a successful industry. Without doubt we will lose students, lose trust, lose income, lose reputation and lose business links around the world.”

Nicola Dandridge of Universities UK (UUK) was equally forthright. There were three areas of particular concern: damage to the UK economy, universities’ economies and a consultation document which was “inappropriate”.

UUK research had shown international students brought around £5bn into the UK economy each year, of which £2.3bn was “off-campus” expenditure in the local economy. “This is a hugely significant export industry,” she said.

She said international student numbers for the UK were second only to the US “which given the size of the US is quite an extraordinary demonstration of the quality of the UK higher education industry. This is a very successful industry which the Government is actively seeking to constrain. Given the economic circumstances this is quite extraordinary that the government is putting these proposals forward,” she said.

Ms Dandridge added that not only did nine per cent of the sector’s income come from international students, but that universities were now hugely dependent on international researchers to teach some key STEM courses.

Professor Edward Acton of the University of East Anglia warned of a “catastrophic” effect on university finances and their role in driving their local economies.

The sector representatives also agreed that students should not be regarded as migrants. “97 per cent of them are transient. If you wanted, you could tackle that other three per cent,” said Aaron Porter, president of the National Union of Students.

Directors of Top UK Universities Condemn Planned Student Visa Cuts

Directors of Top UK Universities Condemn Planned Student Visa Cuts

Universities UK who represent UK tertiary education institutions, says Britain’s place as 2nd in the global education market is at serious risk should the Coalition government make good its threat to slash student migrant numbers.

Britain takes 11.8% of the international student market, behind the USA. The UK is in fact, a significant destination for those international postgraduates studying engineering (62%), maths and computer science (63%) and physical sciences (27%).

The concern is great enough for Directors of Imperial College London and the London School of Economics to tell MPs today that their world-leading research was at jeopardy as a result of the planned cuts. They also argued that it should be academics and universities that set the required English level students require, arguing that English needed for engineering is completely different from that needed for classics.

Describing the planned student visa action as “hostile” towards UK universities, MPs were warned today that the proposed changes would “savagely cut” recruitment, costing universities at least £1bn in fees as well as jeopardising future research capability in the key areas of science, technology, engineering and maths.

Today’s arguments given to MPs follow a speech given yesterday by UK Immigration Minister, Damian Green. He used the speech to highlight cases of “unpleasant abuse” and to lay out plans to drastically reduce the number of student migrants in the UK.

Insisting that the cuts would only target students studying courses below degree level, Damian Green has been trying to allay the fears of academics, all but promising to “do nothing” to prevent the brightest and the best international students coming to study at “our world-class academic institutions above and below degree level.”

According to Professor Edward Acton, vice chancellor at the University of East Anglia, as much as 30-50% of international students at British universities would be affected by the proposed changes, in contradiction to Mr Green’s position of not hurting university recruitment. Professor Acton told MPs today that this huge number of students makes use of pathway or foundation courses, especially where English language support is required, to prepare for their main degree course.

Professor Acton went on to argue that the Coalition’s focus on the abuse of the student visa system in fact hides the fact that the proposed changes would hit higher education recruitment drastically. Targeting pre-university coursers alone would cost more than £1bn in lost fee income alone and Professor Acton called the Coalition’s actions a “hostile act.”

Tougher English language recruitments are also on the cards for overseas students, as well as severely limiting their rights to work and their ability to bring their families with them during their studies or indeed after graduating. It is thought that courses offered by non-highly trusted sponsors will simply no longer be an option for non-EU student migrants i.e. those visa nationals requiring a UK student visa for their studies.

Estimates put the drop on non-EU student numbers at somewhere around 120,000 if the proposals are all enacted. This is a reduction of almost 50% of the 300,000 non-EU migrants that study in the UK annually.

Damian Green did say that he does not want to jeopardise the £5bn per year international student migrants contribute to the British economy, but as the majority of non-EU migrants are students, he has little choice if the Coalition government is to meet its pledge of reducing net migration to the tens of thousands. “I am seeking to eliminate abuses within the system,” he said defiantly.

Firmly in his sites are the private courses which have yet to take up the UK Border Agency’s highly trusted sponsor status. 91,000 international students applied to private colleges in 2010. Mr Green cited cases where a college had only two lecturers for more than 940 students and another where the work placement element of the course was with a pizza company.

The official consultation period on the student visa route closed this week. Green confirmed that he intended to press ahead with his proposals and may go further in limiting post-study work “at a time when graduate unemployment is at its highest level for 17 years.”

Student Visa Clampdown to Protect British Graduates

The rights of student migrants to stay in the UK will be severely limited in order to protect jobs for British graduates, Damian Green said today.

In his speech, Damian Green said that the Post-Study Work system was “too generous” and actually contributed to unemployment amongst the UK’s youth. A sub-category of Tier 1 of the Points Based System, Post-Study Work allowed migrant students who graduated in the UK to stay for a further two years after their course finished.

The Immigration Minister said that the competition provided by international student graduates deterred British students from going to university. He promised new rules to create, “…a proper, fair playing field for British graduates.”

He plans to limit future student migrants graduates to be only granted permission to remain in the UK if they have a job offer for a skilled position from an approved employer, Mr Green outlined in his speech to a London conference.

Mr Green’s speech was timed to coincide with research published last week showing unemployment amongst British graduates to be its highest since 1995, at nearly 20%. He said that for the last year figures were available, 2009, 38,000 student migrants had been granted permission to remain in the UK under the Tier 1 sub-category, regardless of whether they could secure employment or not, he remarked. He concluded that, “this is clearly an area where the current system is too generous.”

“It’s obviously a worry for any graduate looking for work in a very difficult jobs market and it seems to me that it is wrong to allow unfettered access to the jobs market to anyone from overseas.

“It is putting an unnecessary extra strain on our graduates. It is important that we have a proper, fair playing field for British graduates.”

The Immigration Minister’s speech also focused on the risk posed by private colleges and courses below degree level in general. He cited examples of students who had come to the UK posing as students but intending to work.

More tellingly, he revealed that over 33% of all student visa applications received in 2009 from India, fraudulent documents were found to have been submitted.

Tier 4 Student Visa Consultation Closes

Immigration Minister Damian Green has reiterated the Government’s plans to review student visas in a speech to the think tank Reform.

Speaking at a conference in London, Mr Green focused particularly on the privately-funded further education sector, which is subject to less regulation and more open to abuse.

The national consultation on Tier 4 closed on the 31 January and Mr Green outlined how the agency will use this to further strengthen the student visa system and clamp down on abuses of the student route to the UK.

Mr Green said:

‘I believe attracting talented students from abroad is vital to the UK but we must be more selective about who can come here and how long they can stay’.

The 8 week consultation which closed on 31 January received over 30,000 responses, and sought views on a range of measures to reduce the overall number of students who can come into the UK. Proposals in the consultation included:

  • reducing the number of people coming to the UK to study at below degree level;
  • introducing a tougher English language requirement;
  • ensuring students wishing to extend their studies show evidence of academic progression;
  • limiting students’ entitlements to work and their ability to bring in dependants; and
  • improving the accreditation process for education providers, alongside more rigorous inspections.

The results of the consultation will be announced in the coming weeks.

The full speech Given by Damian Green: reforming the immigration system begins with part 1.