UK Politics

Student immigration: Your stories

The Immigration Minister, Damian Green, is calling for "smarter" controls on entry to the UK, arguing that the number of foreign students being allowed into the country is "unsustainable".

Home Office research suggests a fifth of students are still in the UK five years after being granted visas.

BBC News website readers have been sharing their experiences.

Moataz Attallah, former student

I came from Cairo to study for my PhD and am now a lecturer at Birmingham university. I have been in the UK for seven years.

The country needs to keep attracting the students who will directly benefit the country, with their skills and by paying taxes.

Also some small institutes claim to be run courses but actually they just allow students to use their visa to sneak through the UK immigration system.

This is big business. Students claim they are going to classes but actually they are working for cash-in-hand jobs so they are slipping through the tax system.

Zak Choudhury, employer

Image caption "Overseas students are very highly motivated"

I'm a specialist IT recruitment consultant and the requests to fill vacancies that I get are quite specific and specialised.

More often than not, the successful applicants are individuals in the UK with work or study visas.

In the developing world people tend to be more specific in their studies, whereas in the UK they specialise in an area only after they have completed their higher education.

Consequently the overseas students have more experience and are very highly motivated because of the environment they've come from.

I am placing people with Masters degrees in £20,000 jobs, whereas less-qualified graduates expect to start on about £25,000.

It would be a shame if these non-native skills were not allowed into the workforce. I do believe however that tighter controls are needed to ensure that fraudulent and mediocre individuals cannot take advantage of the system.

Vedita Cowaloosur, student

Image caption Graduate Vedita Cowaloosur says the process of applying for a student visa in a 'pain'

I've spent about £60,000 just on tuition fees and accommodation in the UK.

Applying for a student visa for the UK seems to be a universal pain.

The government sets tighter immigration policies and the civil servants abroad apply it across all applicants, alienating the top students this country would like to attract, by making the whole process a lot lengthier and more painful.

That's what has happened to my visa in the past, and that's what's happening to my sister this year.

If the net allows certain students to slip through, it is most likely not those students applying for proper degrees in recognised universities and institutions.

There are also a number of phoney colleges and day schools which attract students from abroad.

A fast-track list for recognised universities and institutions might facilitate the task of the UK Border Agency and students applying for visas alike.

A stricter check on licenses provided to certain private colleges might help as well.

And there should probably be a follow-up of what students get up to when they finish at the universities where they enrolled for their degrees.

Hendrik Nahler

Image caption "Any immigration policy should focus on national interest"

Foreign students at universities pay tuition fees far in excess of home students. In my opinion this is justified to a certain degree as these graduates are not going to contribute to the UK tax and social system when they return home.

But they have played an important part in financing universities.

Moreover, these students are very often the brightest of their home countries. When deciding to work in the UK after they graduate they often work in highly-skilled jobs and therefore contribute to the UK's development and wealth.

Most of the UK top universities employ academics from all over the world to stay competitive in the market for education and research.

The message Damian Green is sending to potential foreign students is: "Don't come to the UK. You are not welcome."

I am not sure this is the message he wants to send. Highly qualified students will go to study in a country where they are welcome.

And that is where they will spend their tuition fee and further money.

I like living and working in the UK and hope that the UK will remain the country where highly-qualified people want to work and study in.

Surely, any immigration policy should focus on national interest.

Other comments

Countries like China have excellent schools but very few universities and in order to achieve a good education, people need to go abroad. By far the majority of foreign students are willing to work very hard in Britain and for less money. Furthermore, they are not people who disturb the peace on Friday and Saturday evenings, because they are studying or working. They have more right to the benefits of living in the UK than many locals. If the students cause problems for the country, like being a burden on the tax payer, the UK is certainly not attracting the right kind of students. Ya Ke, Shanghai, China

Maybe the numbers are a bit unsustainable. As a student, I am financially stable, yet I can't find an internship easily, because there is a lot of competition. Atif Hussain, Karachi, Pakistan

All my Moldovan friends have gone to the UK as students but the main reason was for them to work, and not to study. The pretend course was just a cover. We live in the poorest country in Europe and this is a chance for us to emigrate. Ion Neagu, Moldova

I am a foreign student studying at university. I think that government should definitely initiate certain procedures to stop the bogus student. Some people just come here to seek jobs and have no intentions of studying and those must be stopped. The government should care about students who come to reputed institutions and should be strict about the people who try to switch once in this country. Naresh Gautam, Hatfield, Hertfordshire

I accept Damian Green's concern. The student visa system is a shambles and is the only way to cheat the immigration system. Once I was also an overseas student. To get permanent residency I did PhD in physical science and worked in prestigious universities. Nowadays I observe people coming with very poor academic backgrounds and who change course every year to fulfil the 10 year target to be entitled to apply for settlement. I think Britain needs overseas people to fill the skill gap, not to offer random citizenship and undervalue British passports. The government needs to filter the best and not extend the visa randomly. Dr Monir Moniruzzaman, Swindon, Wiltshire

I am a research student from the United States studying in the UK. I must say that I found some of Mr Green's comments quite upsetting. As a US student, I pay triple the tuition that home students pay. I pay rent, buy train tickets, basically pour my own money into the British economy. I had always wanted to study English literature in England, and finally made it over here after years of very hard work in order to prove myself intellectually worthy of studying in the UK. And how are people in a situation similar to mine repaid? We can't find part-time work, nor do the universities support us in search of scholarships or grants that may help us with expenses. I understand that many take advantage of the system, but it is unfair to those of us who haven't. Samantha Briggs, Leicester

I am a Brit who studied abroad in France and I do not understand the issues at stake here. People come to study in the UK and some stay after completing their studies. With the aging population, we desperately need more young immigrants to pay for our pension scheme. The questions I would like answered are how many are on benefits and how many have never worked? If we do not provide answers to these last two questions, we are not exposing a problem but sewing the seeds of xenophobia. Hans Carpenter, Aix en Provence, France