A recently published report by the Home Office has shown that the relatively new Student Visitor system in the UK is working well and attracting genuine, talented students.
The study found that most short term students in the UK were studying English language courses are university exchanges. A UK Student Visitor visa permits study up to six months, whilst an Extended Student Visitor visa permits study up to eleven months.
The study was commissioned as a check on whether the system was working as intended. The Student Visitor route was found to attract high value, low risk migrants who benefit the UK economy positively. The study also claims that there is no evidence of displacement from the main Tier 4 (General) student route, which permits longer courses and study at higher levels.
“It is right that international students have the opportunity to take up short courses in our world class colleges and universities, and this research shows how well the system is working,” said Immigration Minister Mark Harper. “Overall, we have made substantial inroads in reducing immigration, with figures showing we have cut out abuse while encouraging the brightest and best migrants who contribute to economic growth,” he added.
The study found that the majority of Student Visitors to the UK stayed for less than three months. This suggests that there is not much abuse of the system, as the vast majority of applicants are genuine students and have not been staying longer than needed in the UK. Around 10% of visa nationals who applied through this route were studying a course equivalent to degree level, as well as around 33% of non-visa nationals.
The report also found that 87% of non-visa nationals and 90% of visa nationals attended education providers listed on the Home Office’s Tier 4 Register of Sponsors. Around 66% of those requiring a visa came from just five different countries: Russia, China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and India. English language courses were most dominant amongst this group. The largest number of Student Visitors came from America, at 44% of the total. The majority of Americans – some 85% – were taking part in university exchange programmes.
In the year 2011 – 2013 there was a 6% increase in the number of Student Visitor grants against the previous year. This does seem to suggest that the Student Visitor route is important for continuing to show that the UK welcomes international students for a short period of time, allowing them to benefit from good UK education providers and to travel around the UK too.