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Student visa plans could 'cripple' UK education

Mark Easton | 08:50 UK time, Thursday, 17 March 2011

An all-party committee of MPs has urged Immigration Minister Damian Green not to go ahead with a series of changes to the student visa system, warning of "potentially calamitous" consequences to an industry worth £40bn a year.

Damian Green

Members of the home affairs select committee today "caution against measures which could be detrimental to a thriving, successful industry" that is "not only economically beneficial to this country but also vital to the UK's international relations".

The committee report amounts to a scathing critique of government plans to try and reduce net immigration by introducing new controls on students applying to study in the UK. The MPs complain of "a policy based on flawed evidence" and urge ministers to rethink proposals that "could cripple the UK education sector".

The government is determined to reduce net migration to the UK from its current level of around 200,000 a year down to tens of thousands. However, since taking office, net immigration has increased, largely because many more students from outside the EU are coming to British colleges, language schools and universities.

Immigration Minister Damian Green told Parliament in January that "taking action on students is particularly important as they make up roughly two thirds of non-European economic area immigrants, and the number of student visas issued has been rising in recent years". However, a few weeks later he told the Commons: "We want to encourage all those genuine students coming here to study at our world-class academic institutions."

This apparent contradiction has led the select committee to accuse the government of "a lack of clarity" over whether the aim was to cap foreign student numbers or simply target "bogus" students and colleges. The prime minister has stated that "we are not currently looking at limits on tier four (student) immigration visas" but the MPs' report expresses concern at "the potential to create significant unintended consequences".

Graduates

The anxiety is that Britain might lose out on billions of pounds in income from foreign students if it does not appear to be as welcoming as other countries. "UK universities are facing aggressive competition in a market which is vital for their future and for the UK economy", the MPs say, adding that they had already "heard evidence that Australia were launching an aggressive marketing campaign in order to increase their share of the international education market at the expense of the UK".

The committee report states that "the international student market is estimated to be worth £40 billion to the UK economy" and warns that "given the experiences of the USA and Australia", who lost trade after they tightened their student visa systems, "it would be wise for the UK to bear this very much in mind".

Chairman of the committee, Keith Vaz MP, is suggesting the government takes students out of the net migration figures, thus removing the educational sector from ministers' concerns over numbers:

"Students are not migrants. They come from all over the world to study here, contributing to the economy both through payment of fees and wider spending. Whilst we are right to seek to eliminate bogus colleges and bogus students, we need to ensure that we continue to attract the brightest and the best... if the door is shut they will simply study elsewhere."

The MPs "strongly recommend" that the government does not demand higher English language qualifications for students applying to a college with "highly trusted" status. They also urge that the post study work route whereby students who finish their course can take a job in the UK "be maintained".

Indeed, they question whether there is a significant problem of bogus students looking to abuse immigration rules.

The information government uses to justify tightening student visa rules "does not in itself prove endemic abuse of the system", the committee says. Mr Vaz argues that "generating policy based on flawed evidence could cripple the UK education sector. In the case of international students this could mean a significant revenue and reputational loss to the UK."

One area where government has expressed specific ambition to act is on students who come to the UK to take "sub-degree" courses at English language schools. You may recall my post on this subject which quoted Damian Green telling journalists how he had "discovered" that half of those who come to Britain to study "do not fit with everyone's image of the hard-working student in higher education".

The committee, however, estimates that the foreign students coming to learn English "contribute roughly £1.5 billion to the economy and are estimated to be responsible for 30,000 jobs".

"It is a sector which boosts tourism and provides a vital route for international students to achieve necessary language skills for UK degree courses" they say. "Witnesses repeatedly stressed to us the importance of pathway programmes to UK universities and all of them cited the increase of the required language level as a proposal which could significantly damage the recruitment of international students."

Today's all-party report is clanging alarm bells, sounding klaxons and rattling cages for all it is worth. The MPs accept the need to keep immigration under control and take steps to prevent abuse. But, after reading their document, one is left with the powerful impression that this group of senior parliamentarians fears the government may be about to endanger a key driver of economic growth and cost taxpayers billions of pounds.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Not to be underestimated is the influence that GB obtains when these students return to their homeland and the enhanced potential commercial opportunities from decision makers who have been educated in the British way.

  • Comment number 2.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 3.

    What are we talking about here ? Students or immigrants ? If they study here, pay their fees and go home ,they are students. If they get a student visa, and do not study and do not go home they are illegal immigrants. As the meercat says "simple "

  • Comment number 4.

    This is the usual, heavily biased, contribution from Mark Easton. There is no mention of the extensive evidence of abuse of the student route. For example, applications from Bangldesh rose by a factor of five between 2009 and 2008 when the new system was introduced. In a sample of one month's applications in New Delhi 35% were found to contain a false document. That is not to speak of genuine students who pay substantial fees only to find that the college is a sham.

    His conclusion "after reading their document, one is left with the powerful impression that this group of senior parliamentarians fears the government may be about to endanger a key driver of economic growth and cost taxpayers billions of pounds." Reflects the hype of the education lobby. For example,Professor Acton was reported in The Guardian as describing the government's policy as a "hostile act".

    It is surely clear that action needs to be taken, the task is to avoid colateral damage not to exaggerate the significance of these measures in a way that, of itself, damages the "welcoming image" to which the sector itself attaches a good deal of importance.

  • Comment number 5.

    Yes there is a bubble in university education and the 98% rise in international students since 1998/9 is not the only thing responsible for it. With the collapse of the bubble it will mean courses end, educators lose their jobs etc. Some universities have moved with the times and brought their courses to those who wish to study, some haven't.

    That this lobby has ready access to Eastons bully pulpit shouldn't deter government from its commitment to reduce immigration.

  • Comment number 6.

    Poor Damien Green .... education is a major export business in the uk... selling goods to foreigners just like tourism is. But the locals don't like foreigners (if they are not Australian) so what are we to do? :-)

    I was surprised Mark you did not set this in the context of the Home Office Report A Migrants Journey. which is here

    http://rds.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs10/horr43c.pdf

    which has something on the evidence about 'overstaying students' Even the Guardian had to correct it's report on it. They are mosty legitimately permitted to stay by the Home Office.


  • Comment number 7.

    It is far from clear that No. 2's last sentence is not an unpleasant remark about Mr Vaz. If the government is concerned about students out staying their welcome after finishing their course that should be their focus not to strangle the numbers wishing to come and pay their fees. So perhaps better regulation of language schools and their students would be preferable. If some one who can afford the fees and the airfare with the intention of "disappearing into the migrant community" (what ever that means) a cheaper option is to simply by a return air fare with a visa and not board the return flight. How many illegal immigrants have been discovered managing a large company or having a senior role in the public sector?

  • Comment number 8.

    #7 I agree. Maybe poster #2 means something different but to my eyes it reads as a fairly nasty racist remark. I'm no fan of Mr Vaz but for once his proposal seems sensible. UK citizens who are in full time education but not studying over holidays are not classed as 'unemployed'. People from abroad on 6 month holidays are not classed as 'migrants' either because its clear they're visitors, not staying here forever.

    The solution is quite simple: leave the Visa restrictions as they stand, differentiate students from economic migrants and focus the effort on making sure students return home when the visa expires. Its hardly rocket science....

  • Comment number 9.

    Many international students come to the UK to study so that they can improve their lives and make a contribution in the future to the UK or their own country. Most of them are quite poor and make huge sacrifices to come here. So we may be telling these very poor people to pack up their lives here every time they finish a course (which initially may be for just one year) and return home, then reapply to come back. We will make it impossible for the poorer students to come here and so we will be selecting only the richest. But that fits with our policies of allowing in under our other immigration routes anyone with a million pounds, or who earns over £150,000 p.a. or is a footballer (!); i.e. we have a Tory-led government headed by ex-Etonians which favours the wealthy and hits the poor (no change there, then).
    I do not disagree with tightening rules on colleges, some of whom exist only to make money, but why are we trying to destroy our economy in a time of austerity by losing the large sums that foreign students contribute. It seems that the government wants to please the electorate, whom it promised it would reduce immigration, but has realised that most immigrants are from the EU and cannot be stopped so, as usual, they find a soft target and, as usual, it is the poor.
    If the government went back to the electorate and explained that we will continue to get large immigration from the EU, that the money we will lose from foreign students would pay for better care for the elderly (or reduce fuel prices, as maybe the only thing the public really cares about) and that we seem happy to expect often young and vulnerable people to pack up their lives every year, travel thousands of miles and start all over again, then the public may have a different view. If not, then God help our country. We seem hell-bent on destroying it.

  • Comment number 10.

    The current system is already fairly robust in terms of ensuring that students who come here are genuine students - and just because a non-EU student has a British degree does not allow them to stay on and work. Once their student visa runs out, they have to persuade an employer to get them a work permit and are subjected to the same stringent rules as any non-EU foreigner trying to get a job here - there is no preferential treatment for those who have spent money on a British education.

    However, it would be a good idea to use this opportunity to sort out some of the universities who accept foreign students with a very poor command of English. Whilst I recognize that this is a big industry that creates many jobs and is worth a lot of money, some of these foreign students who barely speak any English end up at universities whose degrees are not worth the paper they are printed on. Are we really that hard up for money in the education sector? Is that the area of growth we want to focus on - or should we be focusing on the better universities, the universities that will give British education a good name internationally?

  • Comment number 11.

    This government can be proven to be incompetant over so many issues, especially ones which involve numbers.

    This government is demanding improvements to basic education including maths, yet itself is so mediocre in maths/arithmetic aptitude and competance.

    On another news item on this site its reported that universities minister Mr Willetts told the BBC - graduates could expect to earn £100,000 more over their lifetimes than those who had not been to university, and the system was "by and large a good deal".

    He added that the value of an £80,000 debt would be different in 30 years' time.

    He FAILS to add that paying back that £80,000 debt has a massive negative relativity to his £100,000 increased earning potential.

    Hence Mr willets, can you at all competantly manage to subtract £80,000 from £100,000.

    By my method of calculation I come up with a figer of £20,000.

    Now, please find me an investment banker, or an accountant or even a homeless alcoholic junkie who would invest £25,000 at todays value to receive a return of £20,000 over a full lifetime (if jobs exist)which itself will have a hugely deteriorated value and even at todays value in comparison to 30 year value eaten by inflation will be worth possibly as much (cynical/little) as £5,000 and thats quite a high figure based upon previous 30 years of inflation.

    Is Mr willets really qualified to be university minister!!!!!

  • Comment number 12.

    I agree with Damian Green. Why should students who finish their courses, be allowed to stay and work, or ask for settlement, or get married here. Their motives for coming here are supposed to be study. Many get part time work, when their supposed to bring their money with them. University's and colleges should be heavily fined for each student, (in fact they should put down a deposit in advance), that does not leave at the end of their course. We should insist on a certain level of English, in the same way Britons are required to do, when doing a finance course. They should also be studying at degree level only. Don't lose your nerve Damien, their just special interest groups, who care nothing about the costs and social issues the country will have to face. I was waiting for Mark Easton to report the other side of the argument and I still am.

  • Comment number 13.

    Student visas are seen as a good way by economic migrants to get into the counntry and then overstay their welcome.

    The sad case of Jean Chalres de Menezes illustrates just how easy it is for someone to come here under false pretences and then remain here undetected. According to the Home Office, he arrived in Britain on 13 March 2002, on a six-month visitor's visa. After its expiry, he applied to stay on as a student, and was granted permission to remain until 30 June 2003. The Home Office said it had no record of any further correspondence. He was an illegal alien working here illegally, I believe as an unqualified electrician, and unknown to the authorities.

    Recent court cases have also shown how difficult it is to deport an economic migrant who comes here under false pretences. All they have to do is to settle here, start a family and claim they wil be persecuted if they return.

    Given the inability of the authorities to deport those who overstay and the willingness of the courts to make the job of the authorities so difficult to do by making the deportation process so long and expensive, the Government has no choice but to stamp down hard on student visa applications.


  • Comment number 14.

    #12 insisting on a "certain level of English"? The irony.

  • Comment number 15.

    I think it is quite clear what the British public want from the comments pages of various forums and news sites. They would rather a systematic mass closure of cuts to higher education than a significant demographic change in both on campus and wider society (after foreign graduates stay for work).

    Even amongst the crowds of students protesting the spending cuts and rises to tuition fees, the general consensus is that they are highly critical of the number of foreign students, which is rather illogical seeing as they are the ones subsiding home students' education.

  • Comment number 16.

    The university I work at makes a substantial part of it's income from overseas students so I dont take this lightly.

    The real overseas students contribute hugely - massive course fees, yet more money to subsist - all of this very real foreign currency coming not just into the university but also the local economy.

    But sorry Mark, if you think all the people coming in on student visas are genuine students who intend to go home at the end of the course you are very mistaken.

    The government needs to focus on the concept of: visa - study - go.

    For example application for student visa should include a binding agreement to leave at the end of the course, not work, not claim asylum, no right to appeals etc etc Fundamentally a no loop hole agreement to leave - no agreement, no visa.

    This might well cost us a few students at face value, but frankly only the ones were never genuine students.

  • Comment number 17.

    Personally, I don't mind how many students come to study here (as long as they only stay for the time they are allocated). However, ALL overseas students need to have a good understanding of English.

    My Masters degree course was 60% Chinese students. Whilst they were very friendly and eager to learn, they had very basic English.

    The lecturers spent half the time trying to communicate the lesson material whilst the rest of us twiddled our thumbs - missing out on hours worth of study time that we paid a fortune for.

    They then complained against the lecturers for giving them poor marks for not being able to write a coherent essay.

    Ridiculous.

  • Comment number 18.

    12. At 12:27pm on 17 Mar 2011, Simon wrote:

    "Why should students who finish their courses, be allowed to stay and work, or ask for settlement, or get married here. Their motives for coming here are supposed to be study. "

    Wow, really? Are we socially engineering people and relationships now? Those who get married here are to British nationals... of those I have seen usually British MEN, so it's hardly like the power demographic of this nation is faultless. They do study, and heaven forbid, get together with a native Brit during that study. Or are you endorsing segregation, seperate study areas for locals and foreigners just for the purposes of stopping British people marrying non-British?


    "Why should students who have graduated be allowed to stay and work"

    Your naivety beggars belief. If I were to work towards a higher education and achieve that, I would expect the rewards to come from it i.e. employment at an organisation that values graduates. That could be in Britain or anywhere else... see all the British expats abroad. Chances are they are (very talented) graduates.

  • Comment number 19.

    "... warning of "potentially calamitous" consequences to an industry worth £40bn a year."

    Education is not an industry, these MPs have their heads screwed on the wrong way, and if the education system is going to collapse because of lack of foreign students, I'd rather it did, because it clearly is not fit for its manifest purpose. It is not there to make money, it is not to serve as finishing schools for affluent Asian middle class, it is to create educated UK citizens, a concept most of the system would not understand anyway.

  • Comment number 20.

    I have no issue with people who wish to come here to study (and pay fees) or to work (and pay taxes) - it's the ones who expect to be supported who annoy. Yet everything the government does increases the number who cannot - at least not legally - pay their way, even restricting those who want to claim asylum by denying them the right to work to support themselves whilst their claim is processed.

  • Comment number 21.

    When I was at university two years ago, studying engineering, atleast 70% of the students were foreign students. No wonder most universities are now very worried about continuing some of their courses. It is very likely a lot of the Engineering courses throughout the country will vanish if they cap student visas to a bare minimum.

    And as far as students leaving the country straight after they finish their courses are concerned, do you really think you can make students do that after they have paid so much money for their education. As soon as the government abolishes the Post Study Visa, I am pretty sure the foreign student numbers will plummet, could be by 50%. As someone has pointed before, a lot of the students from India, Pakistan etc come here from poor families after obtaining huge loans. I am sure you can understand they would like to earn in pounds (although it's losing its value gradually) for few years atleast, so that they can repay the loan.

    And it is naive to think British education is worth that much! Unless you have work experience, nobody is even going to look at your CV twice just because you have a British degree. Ofcourse, students will try to obtain a job here after they finish their courses. Mind you, a lot of the companies don’t even consider you if you need a visa to work and the one’s that do, you have to prove that you are exceptional! On average, only 20% will manage to get a job offer and out of these 20%, 70% will decide to leave the country after 3-5 years for better opportunities in growing markets.

    Nevertheless, this whole argument of students coming to the UK will surely become invalid in ten year’s time. With rising economies such as India and China, a lot of people are moving to these countries already. Germany is surely a better option, where foreign student communities are appreciated.

  • Comment number 22.

    This took my breath away when I heard about it on the news this morning.
    Firstly it's an insult to me as a skilled and educated Englishman - surely I can't be the last generation to be capable of being educated sufficently.
    Why not educate some of the people already here to the point where they can become useful and productive members of the workforce or are English people considered to be too dumb to merit education.
    This just makes me realise that all politicians are the same and couldn't care about the voters, my biggest complaint about Labour was that they seemed intent on flooding this country with people for their ownperverse reasons, now the Condems seem intent on doing exactly the same. I am slightly less surprised however as they promised not to do this and so far have consistently broken every promise they have made!

  • Comment number 23.

    #14 Mike: Not the most original comment and a bit of a weak argument to be honest.
    #18 PiggyBack: People have the right to marry who they like, that doesn't mean we have to give them the right to settlement or citizenship. What's to stop the Briton their marrying, going to live in their country. Why is it always a one way street. The foreign student should leave at the end of their study and apply back in their own country, like every body else.

    I agree with #16 john112dk they should sign a legally binding contract, agreeing to leave when their study is complete and giving up any rights to claim asylum or apply for a work permit or settlement etc. The University's or colleges should also pay a deposit on each student, which they get back, when they pass through emigration checks at Heathrow.

    There is home office research, that examines the migration routes in to Britain. Many people switch to the marriage path when others have failed, because it is the weak point in the system. The 1997 Jack Straw rule changes, should be reversed, so the person getting married, has to prove to immigration that their marriage is genuine not the other way round.

  • Comment number 24.

    Back of the soon-to-be-banned fag packet calculation; £40 billion a year, right ? So, even trying with a very simple and generously over-estimated 400,000 foreign students a year, that's £100,000 income to the nation per student per year. Right, I have a bridge to sell if anyone is interested...

  • Comment number 25.

    19. At 1:19pm on 17 Mar 2011, trylypuzzled wrote:
    "... warning of "potentially calamitous" consequences to an industry worth £40bn a year."

    Education is not an industry, these MPs have their heads screwed on the wrong way, and if the education system is going to collapse because of lack of foreign students, I'd rather it did, because it clearly is not fit for its manifest purpose. It is not there to make money, it is not to serve as finishing schools for affluent Asian middle class, it is to create educated UK citizens, a concept most of the system would not understand anyway.


    I agree.

  • Comment number 26.

    Hi Mark,
    Not your best post. Just a long re-hash of opinions with little commentary and no analysis. However I do feel you are unfairly being criticised - the post doesn't contain enough evidence of any personal opinions to be criticised on.

    In reply to others:
    At least one person has mentioned a 'bubble in higher education'. That is spot on. The underlying problem we have is the college and university sector has been allowed to expand uncontrollably.

    I hope that people of all political persuasions will accept that this means there are issues including those common to 'bubbles' in all industries. These are specifically issues with industry expectations, efficiency and quality.

    Within the context of the wider debate, we should consider how serious (or not) the three potential issues mentioned above are:
    - How much are Universities' opinions of their own importance inflated?
    - How much have inefficiencies built up in the sector?
    - How much has quality suffered?

    This will help make a decision on the general scale of action that is justified. Does the 'bubble' in overseas students need to be 'brust' or just 'deflated' very slightly?

    I personally think that the more decisive action within the Government plans is justified, but there is another more general principle to consider. A Government's job is to govern, not tinker, and that remains true even if you do disagree with specific policies.

    At least with a decisive policy there will be clear results. Even if it is a failure, everyone will know its a failure and the UK can move on again with confidence. Those who disagree, at least need to acknowledge there is a benefit in giving the Government enough rope to hang themselves on this policy.

  • Comment number 27.

    @ 23. At 1:58pm on 17 Mar 2011, ItJustMyOpinion wrote:
    "People have the right to marry who they like, that doesn't mean we have to give them the right to settlement or citizenship. What's to stop the Briton their marrying, going to live in their country. Why is it always a one way street. The foreign student should leave at the end of their study and apply back in their own country, like every body else. "

    What do you propose they do then, live apart? As a married couple? They don't have the right to automatic settlement or citizenship... read up the rules, it takes 2 years of marriage and a guarantee that the British resident (usually the man) can support and fund themselves without relying on the state. Also this government has recently brought in rules requiring conversational English of the foreign spouse... which I agree is long due.

    And it isn't a one way street, believing so just proves that you are simply concentrating on the demographics of Britain. Look at the news now - see all those British expats wanting to come back home? A lot of them have settled there, in Japan, with their wife. Not the other way round.


    @ 22. At 1:54pm on 17 Mar 2011, BAmberGas

    This has been boiling up for a while now. Decades ago, university was the reserve of the elite. Fact - no country can provide higher education for the majority of its citizens without either getting substantial funding (from the government, foreign students, business etc.) - it's either that or huge cuts in research and teaching... another words, we can educate the masses without a huge foreign intake - but guess what - British universities won't be worth going to, because the quality and content will be subpar - students might as well study online if it got to that stage.


    All of this is quite miserable to read about, especially considering that university expenditure to prevent cuts is just a small percentage of that we spend on social housing, benefits and war.

  • Comment number 28.

    Peter Galbavy wrote:
    Back of the soon-to-be-banned fag packet calculation; £40 billion a year, right ? So, even trying with a very simple and generously over-estimated 400,000 foreign students a year, that's £100,000 income to the nation per student per year.

    Wow, steady on Peter, you're making the classic mistake of using logic and facts in this debate. Please add some spin and accuse someone of racism and maybe you'll get credibility!

  • Comment number 29.

    Peter @24

    You're right, we are going to need a new name soon! That figure also sparked my scepticism.

    Reminds of an old maxim (expressed in slightly more formal terms) - the defining characteristic of a good engineer is the ability to answer complicated questions within a factor of 3 within 5 minutes.

  • Comment number 30.

    It has been suggested by no 23 that any UK citizen marrying a foreigner should go to live in that person's country. So that also means logically that any UK citizen who marries abroad should return to the UK with his/her spouse!

    This is a strange concept of marriage .... you have to live in only one country (the one where the foreigner in the marriage originates from)and all the freedoms given to UK citizens who marry UK citizens are lost if you happen to marry a foreigner. Sounds rather segregationist to me and a big step backwards.

    So the loophole for a UK citizen marrying a foreigner under your proposals would be to go to that person's country and then leave with the spouse to return to his/her native country (the UK). Result: the UK citizen still ends up living in the UK with his/her foreign spouse but has had to travel a considerable distance to marry. Seems a bit pointless. I don't know anything about no 23 but if you have children I hope none of them marries a foreigner because it seems you will insist they both leave the UK.

  • Comment number 31.

    17. At 1:09pm on 17 Mar 2011, tigalilly wrote:

    Personally, I don't mind how many students come to study here (as long as they only stay for the time they are allocated). However, ALL overseas students need to have a good understanding of English.

    My Masters degree course was 60% Chinese students. Whilst they were very friendly and eager to learn, they had very basic English.

    The lecturers spent half the time trying to communicate the lesson material whilst the rest of us twiddled our thumbs - missing out on hours worth of study time that we paid a fortune for.

    They then complained against the lecturers for giving them poor marks for not being able to write a coherent essay.

    Ridiculous.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    My postgrad course finished last year, and I found exactly the same thing. It was dominated by Asian students, and 20% of the dissertation module mark was based on a presentation of the students' research work. Not only were too many of them incapable of presenting (as nice a bunch of people as they were - they were some of the nicest I've come across) to a Masters standard due to their command of the language, but it was also clear that they hadn't understood the fundamentals that were drummed into us of the subjects we were doing.

    I would suggest that their poor understanding was due to not being able to learn much in lectures given in such a different language. One guy actually presented his results that 'a 1% increase in the population of China would result in a 108% increase in pollution.

    Most people wouldn't dream of presenting that - if they had understood the material they'd been studying for 2 years.

  • Comment number 32.

    The universities that want to recruit foreign students can simply create overseas campuses as several have done already see:
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/education/good_university_guide/article6409292.ece
    With this method the student still gets their degree from a British university, the university still gets the income from the student and there is no need for any UK visa.

  • Comment number 33.

    My wife works for a respectable FE college which has gained 'outstanding' for Oftsed inspections. The students on her pathway courses almost exclusively go on to degree courses in the UK and support the funding of other 'normal' A level routes for UK students. They go to the college because they need to improve their English [and take academic courses] before progressing to university. If the govt restricts entry on the level of English proficiency they will simply go elsewhere. The college has recently made large scale redundancies as it is. If these students are lost, redundancies - and, more importantly, courses for UK students pre-university will close. This is a fact and the scare-mongering about these foreign students being here as economic migrants is simply not true. Yes, close down 'rogue' private language schools [if they exist] and make sure student entrants to the UK go to accredited and kite-marked institutions. Don't use a hammer to crack the proverbial nut. Damian Green's sweeping comments and plans about student migration are unhelpful, dangerous and economically damaging.....and will damage our reputation abroad. Foreign students who have for many years regarded the UK not as an economic route but a cultural and academic pathway will just not come.

  • Comment number 34.

    I tire of the ridicule (and phoney logic) that pours from the pro immigration crowd. I refer to the post which discussed where one should live after having married a foreign national.
    The poster should see how easy it is to become a citizen of some of the countries that provide these "students" before insisting on everyones right to come and live in the UK.
    I have a hankering to retire to a sunnier place perhaps in the far east, oh that I could so easily move to one of the countries in that part of the world.

  • Comment number 35.

    As a UK national working as an english language teacher in Italy I have already seen the negative effects of the discussions around this theme. Just the rumor of a changed educational climate has put off students from choosing the UK, and this is for EU students that do not need visas. Considering this, how much more so would it be for non EU students?
    The article is spot on in highlighting Australia as probably the major competitor. I have seen that more Italian students are now considering going to Australia than are considering the UK. This is a terrible mess and unfortunately it seems that the genie is out of the bottle, the damage has already been done to the UK's reputation whether or not this policy actually becomes law.

  • Comment number 36.

    #30. Steve Lynham: To clarify, what I am saying is, I think a student must come here to study only and not have any other immigration route open to them, that is Theresa May's position as far as I am aware. If the foreign student meets some one while they are in the UK and wishes to marry them, they should do so, complete their studies, leave the country and apply for settlement from their own country. They should never be allowed to apply for citizenship, how ever long they have been here, as marriage should never be a route to citizenship and they should be deported if they divorce. If they don't wish to wait, the UK spouse could go and live in their country.

    #27. Piggyback: I have made quite an extensive study of immigration rules actually and am well aware of the routes of migration. Are the two million British ex pats in Spain, applying to be Spanish citizens and giving up their British citizenship or are they simply retired people looking for a bit of sun?

    To study in the UK I think a foreign student should need at least GCSE English and be studying for a degree. I agree with 22. BAmberGas, that too many people go to university and do unnecessary degrees. Companies should create apprenticeships, which include degree study and tie the student in to working for them for say ten years.

    Quoting directly from the BBC, "The Home Office study tracked non-EU migrants who came to the UK in 2004. The largest group - some 185,000 people - were students, and 21% were still in the country five years later." So £40 billion divide by 185,000 seems to be more like £200,000 per student added to the UK economy.

  • Comment number 37.

    11. At 12:22pm on 17 Mar 2011, MrWonderfulReality wrote:

    "......Now, please find me an investment banker, or an accountant or even a homeless alcoholic junkie who would invest £25,000 at todays value to receive a return of £20,000 over a full lifetime."



    It is the taxpayers who are investing £25000, giving the student the opportunity to earn an extra £20000. If the student is poor, they will earn much more due to grants and bursaries. It seems pretty fair to me.

    The best aspect is that people will think twice about taking courses with low employment opportunities, which will hopefully lead to a reduction of these courses and the people graduating from them and a move towards courses where there are skill shortages. Over time this should increase the average earnings of all graduates as well as being very favourable to the economy as a whole.

  • Comment number 38.

    There are lot of Students from Indian Sub continent who come here under
    Student Visa. They join Bogus College, Work Full time and then disappear when Visa Expires. We have made this as Business. It does not matter what Mr. Vaz or all other People who have written in favour to continue on previous System.There are Students leaving in rented accomodation, about 14/16 in three bedroom accomodation. Their motive to come to UK is to survive,work full Time and remit saving to their Contry of origin..They cannot be considered as Student but Economic Migrant.Some of them are allowed to bring their Dependents.During last ten years we relaxed Immigration Rules and allowed lot of People stating that it is good for Business and this Country and now we are saying that we are earning Billions and there for we should continue as this i Business.
    Shah

  • Comment number 39.

    Those that think the university education sector isn’t a global business are deluding themselves.

    Last year 670,000 overseas students went and studied in the USA, 130,000 students went to Canada and 251,310 came to the UK.

    As well as paying much higher tuition fees than UK citizens [and therefore effectively subsidise UK students] it’s estimated than non EU overseas students each contribute a minimum of £6,500 – plus their accommodation costs – to the local economies.

    The vast majority return to their country of origin during holidays and at the end of their courses. For cities with universities the loss of overseas students will have a quite major detrimental effect on their economies; something few will want during a period of austerity.

    The non-research higher education budget for English universities is to be cut from £7.1 billion to £4.2 billion by 2014-15; most universities will simply not be able to make up the shortfall from any other source.

    Cutting non-EU student numbers will be a secondary major financial blow to many Universities; affecting their ability to survive, offer courses to UK citizens - and their reputation of providing world class education.

    Many young Chinese travel aboard for a University education simply because Chinese universities cannot currently cater for the numbers of well educated, ambitious school leavers it’s school system produces (China can be criticized for many things, but it’s education system is pretty good; in many respects better than ours.)

    American and UK universities are their first choice; shut the door on them and they will look elsewhere and take their spending power with them, to the detriment of our universities, to UK students and the UK economy. (A declining university sector would also have the same effect – and I wonder how long it will be before substantial numbers of better off British families decide to send their children to other countries for a better university education?)

    There are intangible benefits too. China is now the world’s second largest economy. Entry into top rank universities such as Oxbridge, Harvard etc is valued not just because of the quality of education but because students will make contacts that will benefit them throughout their careers. It’s an intangible benefit, but one that is real. Given the parlous state of our economy handing those benefits to the USA, Canada, New Zealand etc is not in our long term interest.

    These measures have nothing to do with improving the education system (they will have the opposite effect) and do little to address the issue of immigration (i.e. those that wish to settle here) into the UK.

    Non EU university students should be excluded from the overall immigration figure cap, the vast majority are transitory visitors and benefit both our universities and economy.

    The real issue as far as immigration goes is in addressing the numbers of unskilled or skilled workers (mostly from Eastern Europe) that come to the UK with some expectation of settling here.

  • Comment number 40.

    The irony of the comments on this site that foreign students need better English is that some foreign students already beat Native speakers of English at the very exams the government want students to take to come to study here. In fact Native speakers only average B2 - the level the government want all students to attain - in academic reading and writing.
    Dutch speakers lead the world at scores on Ielts, the main academic English exam for entrance at British university with a score of 7.68 as against 7.26 for Native speakers and 7.20 for Germans. These are the only three language groups that make a C1 average on the Common European framework, a Level that the British government calls "advanced learners" - though everybody else in the world calls native speaker competence.
    Native speakers are particularly weak in academic reading and writing where they score 6.96 and 6.68 respectively - which makes them B2 in those skills, the level the government call Upper Intermediate - but everyone else calls advanced. ( Of course native speakers are better when it comes to general social English - the British score 8.2 on general Ielts But when it comes to studying at university it is academic English you need).
    The government intends to insist students are B2 before they come here. Two groups of students will make B2 without studying in an English speaking country: Speakers of European languages and Commonwealth citizens. Outside of these two groups only one nationality in the world averages a B2 score before studying in an English speaking country: the Israelis.
    Based on the government's own statistics here are the top 6 countries for students overstaying and whether or not they pass or fail B2
    Nigeria stay on rate 48% Pass B2
    Pakistan stay on rate 46% Pass B2
    India stay on rate 44% Pass B2
    China stay on rate 22% Fail B2
    Malaysia stay on rate 19 % Pass B2
    America stay on rate 11% Pass C1
    In fact research by my own newspaper, the EL gazette, shows that students from countries where English is an official language are three times more likely to stay in the country after their studies have finished than those from countries where English is a foreign language - probably because it is easier to get a job if you speak good English!

  • Comment number 41.

    This government is bashing higher education from every conceivable angle - cutting the teaching grant by 80% then talking about clawing back money from student fees if universities try to recoup the money by charging the amount the government said they could. Now it's threatening to cut off overseas student income through some populist anti-immigration measures. The only way they can think of to retain some popularity is to play the immigration card. Meanwhile other countries are ramping up their investment in universities to improve competitiveness and social mobility. Higher education is a huge UK success story, exploiting the natural advantage of the English language and the fine research record of UK academics, but you'd never think it. It seems this government really thinks there should be fewer universities and they should be reserved for the likes of them and their children.

  • Comment number 42.

    MPs warn of 'flawed' migration data.
    If the data is flawed, why not just fix the manner in which the data is collected and verified?
    The proposals apparently are based on data that "are not fit for purpose and could inhibit effective policy making".
    If the data is flawed, why not just fix the manner in which the data is collected and verified?
    The Commons Home Affairs Select Committee said a new system should be brought in as a priority. Agreed, then you can correct the flawed data system.
    Keith Vaz, the committee's chairman, said: "Generating policy based on flawed evidence could cripple the UK education sector."...
    If the data is flawed, why not just fix the manner in which the data is collected and verified?
    Shadow universities minister Gareth Thomas said universities were "hugely worried about the financial implications of a big drop in overseas student numbers."
    If the data is flawed, why not just fix the manner in which the data is collected and verified?
    But immigration minister Damian Green said: "This Government recognises the important contribution that international students make to the UK economy..."
    If the data is flawed, why not just fix the manner in which the data is collected and verified?

  • Comment number 43.

    there is certainly some abuse of language school and there is existence of bogus colleges. This route taken to get married here and work here. These are low skilled worker doing pizza/ kebab deliveries/work in shop/restuarant etc. Why not language school could be attached to universities or supervised by them?

  • Comment number 44.

    Foreign income is great, with two provisos;

    1. Once your course is done, you leave or apply for a new visa based upon an employment offer with your new found skills.
    2. You are learning in the UK, learn english so you can understand the material. If you cant, thats your own problem.

    Pursuit of illegal immigrants is a separate issue.

  • Comment number 45.

    After reading through the comments on here I am horrified by the level of vitriol being directed towards anyone non-british! Has the UK changed so much since I left? What happened to the old national characteristics of tolerance and fair-play?
    To all those proposing that UK nationals should not be allowed to marry non EU citizens you should be ashamed of yourselves!
    The right to fall in love and be with the ones that that you love should be inalienable. Has the level of humanity fallen so low that we would force exile on citizens that fall in love with foreigners?
    I am truly shocked and saddened by the parlous state of my fellow countrymen's sense of humanity.
    :(

  • Comment number 46.

    @2 "every course had a foreign student", either that is a generalisation or you must have been busy studying every course at university.

    @3 agreed.

    @12 "Many get part time work" and pay income tax and National Insurance, which I consider to be a good thing.

    @12 "or get married here". As I read the rules for getting married here, you need a "Fiance(e)s and proposed civil partners" visa (http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/partnersandfamilies/partners/fianceesproposedcivilpartners/%29 which states "If you are currently in the UK with temporary permission to stay ... (for example, as a student), you cannot switch into this category." which suggests to me that you can't come here as a student and then get married and stay here.

    I am happy that is the rule even though for me personally it is a shame as I would have loved to marry my girlfriend who I met whilst she was studying a masters degree here. I accept that she has since moved back whilst I look for a way that I can work out there and marry her there. I hope to live there for a while but I also hope to be able to move back together and live here too. @30 sums it up well in the first paragraph.

    @14 :-)

    @24 Actually, that's not too far off what my girlfriend spent in this country on fees, rent, food, travel, shoes (oh so many shoes) and posh handbags and to take back for her relatives. Though I freely admit that is a sample size of one.

  • Comment number 47.

    Anyone watch that 'UK Border Police' programme on PickTV? It gives a fascinating insight into our border controls, and frankly the number of 'students' who turn out to be anything but studying - mainly from India and Pakistan - is quite alarming. It makes you wonder how many slip the net.

  • Comment number 48.

    Education is a big business, hence the plethora of new universities, and the plethora of questionable subjects on offer for a degrees. And often degrees that ill equip the recipients to do much of anything. But I would suggest that the reasons for this growth in the business, have little to do with education as a useful experience, but was motivated by profit and political idealogue under the previous administration.

    If the present government does focus in student visas, then the real loss may well be to some of these new universities. Because it may force them to seriously review courses offered, and their very survival as institutions, which may be no bad thing. While leaving the quality universities to do what they have always done, and that is to be their offering qualty education for serious students, The Russel and 1994 groups of universities for example.

    It would seem highly likely the best of the universties will charge the maximum fees for a quality education. It will be an investement for the student's future. This will also have the effect of rationing the places available to those with sufficien funds and ability to benefit. Which in itself will debar those with other agendas from applying.

    Many of the quality universities already have study centers overseas, or other suitable means of study without the cost of coming to the UK.

    It is right and proper that the government stops this mockery of British education. And deportation with no leave for appeal regardless of domestic circumstances would seem apprporiate for those proven to be illegal by non attendance or falsified documents.

    When a student is finished, then they should return home. Their visa isto be a student not for employment.

    Quality universities offering quality courses is the best way of ensuring that the UK remains competetive in th international education world. It will also benefit UK students.

  • Comment number 49.

    A friend has been marking coursework for an MSc course where the vast majority of students are from abroad. The standard approach seemed to be to cut and paste from Wikipedia, and not always an appropriate Wikipedia entry. There were also a number of contributions which had been copied from each other, as was clear from the matching spelling mistakes.
    I have previously seen a student on a similar course give a presentation as part of their coursework which was nothing more than reading a Wikipedia page.

  • Comment number 50.

    I am one of those non-EU international students whose fate you discuss here. Try to be honest with yourselves. After demise of the British Empire you were left with two main assets you were able to capitalise on, namely, the English language and the “imperial dream” – “when in Rome act like the Romans”. You killed the latter with multiculturalism and killing the former with new proposed changes.
    In result you will be left with 6 million strong indigenous chav population and if lucky with a few businesses slow enough to flee abroad. Congratulations!

  • Comment number 51.

    "Student visa plans could 'cripple' UK education" is the title of Mark Easton's blog.

    Is this more to do with bogus colleges in the UK and little to do with genuine students with real qualifications who wish to study in UK colleges and universities?

    Another aspect, which is increasingly overlooked, is that European Universities offer much better courses, at lower prices for all English students worried about the cost of higher education?

    Furthermore, if any person wishing to seek any practical or vocational course - they should search the options across Europe for the best training - sadly lacking in England.

  • Comment number 52.

    An all-party committee of MPs has urged Immigration Minister Damian Green not to go ahead with a series of changes to the student visa system, warning of "potentially calamitous" consequences to an industry worth £40bn a year.

    ............

    We've has this from you before Mr Easton ... quoting vague numbers/ figures without a shred of evidence regarding their source or calculation.

    Perhaps Mr Easton would be good enough to produce evidence to support this mysterious £40 billion figure or otherwise post a full and immediate apology and withdraw this misinformation?

  • Comment number 53.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 54.

    I have posted twice here because I have a foreign student partner, whom I intend to marry (I am awaiting my divorce). But, also, through her I have seen and spoken to many foreign students and understand them and the way that their places of study operate.
    My first conclusion is that they are often exploited by those offering accommodation, their colleges and some solicitors. It is true that some do hope to move from being a student to work here but that is not a problem if the only jobs they are allowed to fill are those where no EU citizen is available (or willing!. That is a work permit regulatory matter, we do not need to kill the golden goose (of the college fees they pay) by stopping them coming here as students.
    My own partner does not work at all, I pay all her upkeep. If the government changes the rules on students being allowed to marry in the UK before my divorce is confirmed then I will take her and my considerable wealth (in UK investments, teachers' pension, private pensions, state pension) to her country (which, in spite of what someone said about it being impossible for a UK citizen to settle abroad in a warm country, will welcome me .... and any 'retiree' above the age of 35)and never return. So the UK loses a wealthy citizen at the same time it opens it arms to a foreigner who can enter here on a Visa because he is wealthy. And it is no secret that some countries are churning out wealthy people who are flocking to the UK to pay huge sums for our best houses but that the source of that wealth is more than dubious.

  • Comment number 55.

    Just done a quick calculation, 200,000 people coming in to the UK and contributing £40BN a year to the economy equates to £200K ea. So yea sure, people from Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Indian Continent have that kind of money to study. And Mr Vaz, stick to Labour politics, you have been sussed which is why there is a big issue with illegal immigration. Mr Easton you are a Journalist - be a bit more thorough with your research in future.

  • Comment number 56.

    55. At 7:44pm on 17 Mar 2011, Steve1960 wrote:

    Vaz has got it wrong - £200,000 a year is what each of them takes off a British student in terms of damage to their British families!

    Our own British Council pays for some of them to come and study here in the UK ... when some of our best and brightest UK students are being refused place in British Universities and Colleges.

    Perhaps we could export Vaz to another country and pay them to keep him there ... that should save us half a trillion £

  • Comment number 57.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 58.

    Perhaps they're all studying 'Vaz Math' ... no wonder the Vaz banks got their Vaz sums wrong and crashed the Vaz economy!

  • Comment number 59.

    53. At 7:43pm on 17 Mar 2011, nautonier wrote:
    GO HOME!
    --------------------
    Where did you lose your “stiff upper lip”? You sound like your former imperial subjects some 50 years ago. Welcome to the club. Of course I will.

  • Comment number 60.

    If a British education is so great why do these universities not open branches in the countries which attract the most foreign students?

    For the genuine student they could save themselves a lot of expense and remain in their own countries, near their families etc

  • Comment number 61.

    #32 - A lot of universities have overseas campuses or another system is working with a partner university in the other country.

    My university has both a campus of our university in china and also works with chinese universities for them to physically provide degrees overseen by us and an award stating our name on it. All for money, of course.

    Problem with this is that the UK earns money from the fees but loses all the money the student would have paid to the local economy around the UK university (Rent, food, beer etc) That may be a halving of the income for UK PLC. Roughly equivalent to a tourist not coming the UK and us losing the money they spend while here.

  • Comment number 62.

    1. There is a big difference between a valid visa system, and cracking down on abusers of that system.
    2. I doubt many (sane) people would argue against removing those who violate and abuse the system. I think we can do much better on enforcement.
    3. Education is a HUGE industry for Britain for the following reasons:
    a. the money directly injected into UK PLC from Student fees and living costs.
    b. the subsidy this gives to UK Higher Education, directly supporting quality research, and more importantly directly funding UK students' places.
    c. The future business links and goodwill this will generate for the UK in future years, with British educated foreign business leaders.

    Finally - how about this for a radical suggestion...all foreign students in the UK's Education system (stand fast arguments about rich parents' money) are highly motivated, intelligent, and upon their graduation have cost the UK NOTHING for getting them to this stage.

    Why not run a graduate lottery/exam process (using the Civil Service exams?) and grant the top 1,000 UK residence on a 2 year visa leading to citizenship, where they will be part of our future prosperity. I am Australian by family, born with a UK passport, educated largely overseas, married to a Ukrainian PhD graduate, and we both are proud net contributors to Britain's future, where our children will grow up. Oh - and I am a director at a FTSE 100 company, so I get the maths of the above....!!!! By an accident of birth in my case.

  • Comment number 63.

    @ Number 12 "Itjustmyopinion"

    "We should insist on a certain level of English" Yup. Let's start with YOUR appalling butchering of the English tongue in your post above. Or is that you're post? Damn.... I get so confused.... :D

  • Comment number 64.

    I think Degree level study and sub degree level study, are being wrongly lumped together in this debate. The government has basically said that, providing students have GCSE English language, they can come and study their degrees as before and will be unaffected by the changes.

    Anyone coming here to study sub degree level English language or any other subject, will only be able to do so, if they attend an institution of exceptional status. So Eton etc. They will still need GCSE English language. This was rejected by Vaz and Co.

    Quote from Migration Watch: "In its submission to the consultation process on the proposals Migrationwatch has calculated that while it is likely to lead to a loss of some £95m a year fee income to colleges offering below degree level courses this has to considered alongside the £300m - £500m a year that it has estimated the taxpayer must fund to support British workers made unemployed by bogus students working illegally.".

    The final point is break the link between study and being able to stay after you have finished your studies. In other words, using study as a route to settlement via work. Foreign students will no longer be able to look for work for two years after qualifying. People forget that every job they take, is one less available for a British job seeker.

    The coalitions policy on marriage as a route to immigration, is less clear and still being decided, but it will certainly involve an increased English language requirement.

  • Comment number 65.

    Hi, Folks

    May I add my tuppence worth re the comment no 23 re marriage.

    Marriages are legal or illegal. Perhaps the commenter would care to look at the history of marriage. Mariages were contracted to provide an heir to the estate.

    Further, what right does any man or woman have to question the validity of a marriage, as long as it is legal

    Cheers

    Srinivasan Devrajan

  • Comment number 66.

    #63. Killalee: Your a bit late, some ones already made that unoriginal and slightly desperate comment. I think their are a few disgruntled university lecturers on this blog. I would imagine its less about whether foreign students punctuation is in the right place and more about being able to understand lectures and communicate in public. If all immigrants can speak English to a certain standard, the tax payer would be saved the expense of all the translation costs. A friend of mine said their were twenty language translation options, to claim benefits, on their JSA form.

    #65. Srinivasan Devrajan: You are confusing the universal right to marry any one you choose and the right to bring them to this country to live. People who marry people for money have legal marriages, but it still doesn't count immigration wise. There are some people that come to this country, have children and when they grow up arrange for them too marry their first cousin back in the country the emigrated from, because they don't want them becoming too westernised. They are thus creating an endless immigration cycle. That is legal but does nothing to help integration.

  • Comment number 67.

    'The committee, however, estimates that the foreign students coming to learn English "contribute roughly £1.5 billion to the economy and are estimated to be responsible for 30,000 jobs".'

    ..............
    Mr Easton

    More 'Vaz maths' ... show us the figures then Mr Easton ... How does your your friend, Mr Vaz, make this estimate?

    Where is the calculation Mr Easton ... More speculation, lies and deliberate misinformation? ... This needs proper inquiry in Parliament and at the BBC to investigate these lies!

  • Comment number 68.

    Nothing like cutting one's nose off to spite one's face if it plays to the populist gallery and is thought likely to improve one's opinion poll ratings - never mind it potentially costs the country billions.

    You couldn't make it up, but here we are.

  • Comment number 69.

    I personally know more than a few individuals from Pakistan who came here on student visas, did not study a single day yet keep getting their visas renewed somehow. They were working full time in the black market and one managed to remain here for 10 years and now successfully applied for indefinite stay! I should also add that while I was at uni there were many students from Pakistan so it's not fair to tar them all with the same brush, but I do find it puzzling that the majority of non-EU students come from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. These are extremely poor countries so how on earth are these hugely expensive degrees being financed? The government really needs to open its eyes and ask itself why there's a trend for so many impoverished folk from the Indian subcontinent successfully gaining student visas, and why so many manage to remain in the country when they do not study. Clamping down on the many dodgy institutes that happily help to renew student visas for a fee even when the 'student' does not attend lectures would also help.

  • Comment number 70.

    66. At 9:47pm on 17 Mar 2011, ItJustMyOpinion wrote:
    #63. Killalee: Your a bit late, some ones already made that unoriginal and slightly desperate comment. I think their are a few disgruntled university lecturers on this blog. I would imagine its less about whether foreign students punctuation is in the right place and more about being able to understand lectures and communicate in public. If all immigrants can speak English to a certain standard, the tax payer would be saved the expense of all the translation costs. A friend of mine said their were twenty language translation options, to claim benefits, on their JSA form.

    --

    Like a few above I'm a non-EU worker in this country. Your friend is claiming benefits that I pay for through my taxes. Why not ask him to get a job so he'll save the tax payer some money?

    The elephant in the room is intra-EU migration. For obvious reasons the politicians cannot interfere with this policy, choosing instead to target non-EU student visas which pales in magnitude. As an example, in a Newsnight programme last year it was quoted that more than 80% of Pret-a-Manger workers were from outside the UK, most of which were from Eastern-European countries. Draw from that conclusions what you will.

  • Comment number 71.

    Just imagine if all these foreign students would leave the UK tomorrow.
    Lets extend this one step further, imagine all foreigners would leave the UK tomorrow.
    There will be no one to take British jobs any more, there will be no one to take British student places.

    Imagine this and think about it.
    Do you really think all unemployed British people would have a job on the next day ?
    Do you think this would help British economy?
    Do you think this would be good for the UK ?

    The UK economy is based on selling services (there is no manufacturing or production); if there are no students, to whom is UK going to "sell" academic services ?
    What will happen with all these teachers, professors, schools, border officers?

    Do you realise how many British jobs are created by foreign students?

    After a couple of weeks, when the full impact had taken place many would change their opinion about this subject.

  • Comment number 72.

    Why the furore over this? Capitalism and big business want the best and the brightest whatever their nationalities and the universities are a critical link in this process. An added bonus is that the foreign students so many of you despise help pay for perennial benefit claimants and pensions for your ageing population. Little Englanders need to deal with their Alf Garnett mentality. It's the economy stupid! Welcome to the knowledge economy.

  • Comment number 73.

    When will people realize that education has been transformed into a business, the employers want technical skilled people not people with vague easy to pass degrees.
    Overseas students are using "training as a way in to the UK", how many of them have no intention of finishing the course?. They drop out after say 3 months and disappear off the radar. Its a way around the new immigration rules, then they marry some one here and they are in!
    With an aging population they are using overseas students to fill holes in the work force, they are also generally cheaper to hire than a UK graduate.

  • Comment number 74.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 75.

    Re Comment no 66 - ItJustMyOpinion

    What might be the litmus test of a marriage contracted solely for staying in the country?

    What right does anyone have to tell any one else how to lead his/her life, as long as it is not legal?

    Cheers

    Srinivasan Devrajan

  • Comment number 76.

    Student visa plans could 'cripple' UK education?

    What is crippling UK education is the stupid people running our UK Univresities and the Easton /Vaz/ BBC mafa matics:

    2 + 2 = 25

    Wot we need is to get rid of of some of our Universities and the British Council and replace many of the Universities with lower cost and British affordable polytechnics, technical colleges and apprentice training schools and to get the excess of foreigners out of our UK education system. Too many of of these job stealing immigration shops are not fit for purpose.

    Then 2 + 2 will equal = (that's for Vaz to work out)

  • Comment number 77.

    I think National Security takes precedence over profit.

    Admitting lots of foreign students poses a major security risk even though it draws in a lot of money.

    You could achieve the same and reduce the security risk by lowering University teacher salaries/costs etc and having fewer overseas students.

    Another possibility would be to set up secure universities just for overseas students with ample associated Halls of Residence accommodation so that they would be easier to monitor, thereby reducing the risk.

    We have to be wary that our pre-occupation with money does not compromise our common sense or national security.

  • Comment number 78.

    How much is Easton on £500K pa

    Green, Willetts, Gove and even Cameron and Clegg need to be involved here and get Vaz and this bent Treasury Select Committee properly investigated ... or better still closed down and kicked out of Parliament/UK.

    UK immigration as including student immigration carries with it a net cost as the figures are never worked out properly.

    Some of these net costs are hidden and/or are opportunity costs:

    1) UK Global health service cost for say 200,000 foreign students ... £2b a year alone?

    2) Extra staff costs for University fat salaries and pensions? 'x' £Bn pa

    2) Extra costs that Unviversities cost more than technical colleges? 'x' £Bn pa

    3) Loss of opportunities, salaries and life chances for British students ... the effect here is enormous and practically impossible to calculate ... 'x' £bn's a year ... 20, 30 50, 100 £bn a year

    The other way of looking at this is the lowering of living standards for British students not being able to find sufficient jobs and life chances as a result of excessive immigrant and other resource job stealing.

    These kind of issues require in depth, independent study as looking at the underlying economic and other opportunity costs, national interest and identity, issues damage to the British domestic economy by having to many foreign business most able ... becoing global spivs and non doms and with rampant tax doding by these job stealers (how much tax to these job stealers pay if any, as most are under the non-existent radar)

    Far from being an asset, this University fat salary 20 hour a week fat pension liar conspiracy is doing the UK untold damage to British people, their lives, opportunities ... and to the British economy ... as we fail to bring enough British students into the right kind and cost of British higher education (low cost polytechnic vocational training, technical colleges etc) ... that is so much needed by the stalled UK economy.

    At the right and much reduced scale, immigration to the UK is right and proper and benficial ... but this present arrangement is an outrageous abuse of the UK and its forgotten citizens.

    Little Forgotten Brit's Fighting Back! Always proud to be and be called a Little Englander!

  • Comment number 79.

    50.
    'In result you will be left with 6 million strong indigenous chav population'

    ..............

    My reply to the above most offensive and racial insult has not been removed by the moderators ... but my totally non-offensive and non-insulting reply at 53 has been removed.

    Continuing evidence of BBC censorship and bias against me and British people ... it is time the BBC were themslves investigated for promoting this kind of offensive material on here.

    Or better still, time for further 'cuts' at the BBC as some on £62/week JSA are classed as criminals for not buying a TV licence while job stealing immigrants are actively protected and encouraged by the BBC.

    The only conclusion to this is that Easton really does believe that 6 million British people are 'chavs'.

  • Comment number 80.

    This issue is about EU Immigrants mainly. Its seems the UK is a haven for migrants from the greater EU Community who come here just to sponge off the state, take benefits, claim housing all in the name of the EU and under the guise of Student Visa's.

    Why don’t we ever here of any other European country complaining of UK nationals migrating to there country in order to claim state benefits housing etc under the guise of EU relations and student Visa's ?

    Because unlike the UK, they already have rules regulations and protection against this sort of thing happening and to make sure the residents of there country comes 1st always....something David Cameron and his party need to take stock of and action.

  • Comment number 81.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 82.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 83.

    @64 makes a good point of separating degree and sub degree study. The difficulty is that universities require a certain level of English in order to start a degree; which is good and sensible as it would be tricky to understand lectures otherwise. However, a Spanish friend once told me when learning English there is no substitute to actually being here (they were over here working as a waitress to improve their English before going back to Spain to work in a multi-national company).

    By definition "exceptional status" is rare (if it were common it wouldn't be exceptional) and requiring this would therefore significantly restrict the places available to those wanting genuine study and potentially reduce those studying at degree level. Hence, perhaps the solution would be to have the language schools affiliated to Universities which are already trusted bodies. The universities would have to accept the extra burden of validating those language schools but in doing so would be helping to secure their revenue. Which seems like a good trade off to me.


    I'm less convinced by the argument for "Foreign students will no longer be able to look for work for two years after qualifying". I don't this that "People forget that every job they take, is one less available for a British job seeker" is a simple linear relationship as people in work create more work: there are many jobs for cleaners created becuase everyone in the household is working and therefore "cash rich and time poor"; people with spare cash are more likely to eat in restaurants creating more jobs there; etc. I'm not saying there isn't a relationship, just that is isn't as simple as "they took our jobs" (http://www.southparkstudios.com/clips/104259/they-took-our-jobs%29

  • Comment number 84.

    Someone has referred my comment to the moderator?, ridiculous, as I mentioned in that post I provide some needed context into Mr Vaz's legal and ministerial history, yet someone felt the need to refer my post?, absolutly crazy.

  • Comment number 85.

    I've lost count of the times I've commented on Mark Easton's heavily biased immigration blogs. He seems to me to be pro mass-migration to the UK.

    As I've said before, to those who have seen, I was formerly an Entry Clearance Officer working at a British Embassy overseas & was therefore directly responsible for deciding who got visas to come to the UK. Let me assure you that Student visas are the most abused category of visa that the UK offers. Let there be no doubt about that. And the sub-continent is the single largest contributor of Student visa applicants and the most corrupt region when it comes to bogus students who have no intention of studying in the UK and whose only intention is to illegally settle on a permanent basis.

    The reason for this? The hugely unsuccessful 'points based system' introduced by the previous Labour government. This unnecessary change took all powers of discretion away from the Entry Clearance Officer. It meant the officer no longer got to see the visa applicant in person & thus to interview them. This was essential in order to make an accurate assessment of their real intentions and to assess their English language skills. Instead, decisions had to be made based on a series of paper documents, in a matter of minutes. Yes, minutes. Such was the pressure to get through applications that an officer was expect to get through each one in 4-5 minutes. No time for background checks & very little time to verify documents. This was a huge problem in the sub-continent, where providing fake documents is embedded in the culture. Take for example Air India, which recently rooted out 4 pilots who had acquired flying licenses using false documents. It's inherent in the system in that part of the world.

    We were forced to issue visas to people who blatantly had no intentions whatsoever of studying in the UK. All it took was to get an enrollment letter from a very poor UK college, for a deposit of just a few hundred pounds and they were half way there. Too make matters worse, many bogus colleges were uncovered, which issued fake enrollment letters for a fee. The governments (past and current) have done little to crack down on this well known area of abuse. I would be TOLD to issue a student visa to an applicant who had been refused maybe 6 or 7 Visitor visa previously. Or to a 50 year old man, married with 3 kids who claimed to be going to the UK to learn how to speak English in a 12 month English Language Course!!! The corruption is plain for all working in the sector to see. Apart from the government it seems.

    Many 100's of thousands of bogus students have flocked to our shores from the Sub Continent, as well as China and Africa with no intentions whatsoever of studying here, or of leaving when there visa expires. A bad system is solely to blame for that.

    The problem is a big one, but not impossible to repair. But so far the Conservative government has been all talk and no action in tackling the greatest crisis of our time. The so called cross-parliamentary committee would do well to speak to officers serving at their overseas posts, before reaching their own decisions on what they think is needed for Britain.

  • Comment number 86.

    It is a fact that Universities benefit greatly from overseas students, but it is important to differentiate between genuine educational institutions and the plethora of commercial establishments that have mushroomed all over the country.

    The abuses of the student visas systems have been widely publicised and a number of bogus colleges shut down. But in my own NW London suburb 6 new "colleges" have sprung up in the last 18 months. Far greater regulation is needed to control these places! The overiding attribute they all share is that they all offer worthless qualifications. The acid test is that the awarding bodies for these qualifications are themselves businesses - not recognised examining or awarding bodies.

    Their target market is those students that do not meet the required level of English ability or high school exam success to enter mainstream colleges and universtities, but are keen to get into the UK for other reasons.

    It is vital to protect the reputation of the UK as a bona fide academic destination and to do this the current UKBA Tier 4 rules need to be more rigidly and diligently applied!

  • Comment number 87.

    78. At 08:28am on 18 Mar 2011, nautonier
    1) UK Global health service cost for say 200,000 foreign students ... £2b a year alone?
    2) Extra staff costs for University fat salaries and pensions? 'x' £Bn pa
    2) Extra costs that Unviversities cost more than technical colleges? 'x' £Bn pa
    3) Loss of opportunities, salaries and life chances for British students
    ==========================

    None of those hold water -

    1) Health costs: these are mostly fit young people, health costs are negligible. I've known some use the student health service - basically GP - but I can only think of one who went to hospital (fell off a moped). That's out of many hundreds of overseas students I would know about.
    2) Univeristy staff costs: this is a business, we charge them all costs plus a surplus. One year of a course breaks even at about £7k (depends on the course). The government pays us £6k for a domestic student. We charge overseas students £10-12k. Work out for yourself who is subsidising who.
    3) Loss of oportunity to british students: UK government sets a number for the domestic students, we always take that many, if we take more then the government fines us. Overseas students are in addition to that number.

    Only loss I can see to the UK is if they stay after the course - then they might be taking jobs or even benefits. While people are on a genuine course it is all gain for this country.

  • Comment number 88.

    Londonbedu - you say 'the current UKBA Tier 4 rules need to be more rigidly and diligently applied'. The current rules cannot be more rigidly and diligently applied. An officer can only work with what they're given and the current rules work strongly in favour of the applicant. Take it from someone who worked for over 5 years in immigration. Tier 4 doesn't work. The Points Based System doesn't work. ALL students need to be interviewed and we need a rapid return to the old system, giving all powers of discretion back to the Entry Clearance Officer. In addition to that, Student visas need to be capped. The cap needs to be enforced to a greater extent to applicants from the Sub Continent, Africa & China than the likes of Australia, US & Canada obviously. It really is that simple.

  • Comment number 89.

    I'm amazed that my original comment didn't pass the BBC censors 'standards'. By making observations of my homeland from abroad, if they don't concur with BBC & Easton's pro immigration stance, they don't get in.

    Any country wants genuine overseas students, but exposing this loophole that has been proven countless times as a way of gainning entry to the UK, is also genuine & valid.

    The biggest problem with UK immigration, is that it remains largely unchecked, and automatic right to settle after a stay of 2 years or more has to be removed...

  • Comment number 90.

    Rustigjongens - I know all about Mr Vaz and his nonsense from my previous job. But the BBC clearly don't embrace freedom of speech, hence I had to modify my post at 82 and issue a censored version at 85. Maybe someone should put in a Freedom of Information request in to the Home Office. The information is out there, it's no secret.

  • Comment number 91.

    87. At 1:33pm on 18 Mar 2011, jon112dk wrote:

    In your opinion!

    My figures are equally as valid as the mysterious figures and Vaz mafa-matics that Easton has referred to without mentioning/providing any analysis reasearch as to there existence, substance or accuracy.

    But never mind - we're all paying for Easton, Vaz and the sqidgy, lazy Universities (plus the many billions of £'s net immigration costs, of course)!

    We don't need more graduate non doms/tax dodgers of the most business able spivving around the world for exploitation from a soft British base - we need millions of ordinary jobs at all skill levels and sustainable outputs for British people.

  • Comment number 92.

    jon112dk - you wrote:

    None of those hold water -

    1) Health costs: these are mostly fit young people, health costs are negligible. I've known some use the student health service - basically GP - but I can only think of one who went to hospital (fell off a moped). That's out of many hundreds of overseas students I would know about.

    - In my personal experience, alleged 'students' flock to the UK in their hundreds of thousands every year, the vast majority not to study. They then bring in their dependent spouses/partners/children as they are wrongly allowed to do under the Points Based System. Those spouses/partners routinely fall pregnant in the UK, purposely, then make full use of the NHS at no personal cost. Many students themselves fall pregnant in the UK to British Nationals - thus further helping the achieve their dream of permanently settling. I dealt with numerous cases where 'students' gave birth just months arriving in the UK to 'study'. Only one intention there then.

    2) Univeristy staff costs: this is a business, we charge them all costs plus a surplus. One year of a course breaks even at about £7k (depends on the course). The government pays us £6k for a domestic student. We charge overseas students £10-12k. Work out for yourself who is subsidising who.
    3) Loss of oportunity to british students: UK government sets a number for the domestic students, we always take that many, if we take more then the government fines us. Overseas students are in addition to that number.

    - The genuine students go to genuine good quality universities and long may that continue. The majority though, go to Mickey Mouse colleges in, largely in London. Many of these colleges sit above kebab shops etc yet claim to be able to accommodate hundreds of students. They are at best very very bad colleges & at worst completely bogus. Most applicants know of this & just use them as a route into the UK.

    Only loss I can see to the UK is if they stay after the course - then they might be taking jobs or even benefits. While people are on a genuine course it is all gain for this country.

    - 'If' they stay after the course?? Government figures say they do. My colleagues who work in Immigration enforcement teams across the UK say they do. Basically, they do!! Those that even bother to undertake their course. Student visas are an easy route to settle into the UK and work illegally. It must be radically changed now for the good of the country.

  • Comment number 93.

    Stezza1000. Thanks for that. Always good to hear from someone on the front line. Seems we agree the system does not work! Too many non-students coming in.

    My wife is Asian and she tells me that around 40% of her fellow students at an unnamed West London uni did not have sufficient English to address or complete their studies. The lower the quality of the uni - the more flexible they are on IELTS scores!

 

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