British universities have warned that the country's international reputation will suffer with the new UK visa restrictions
01 March 2012
Universities advise against UK visa rules
A coalition of Britain's universities has warned the Government of the risks of tightening UK visa restrictions on foreign students.
The Home Office announced recently new restrictions to be placed on UK visa applicants, prohibiting them from remaining in the country after their graduation if they fail to secure a job offer of at least £20,000 but universities are warning this could have adverse effects on the British economy.
Universities UK, the group lobbying the Government, is recommending that foreign students be removed from the net migration figures which the Government are so eager to decrease as this could contribute significantly to the country.
"Higher education as an export industry has the potential to contribute £16.9 billion to the economy by 2025, creating tens of thousands of jobs for the UK," said Professor Eric Thomas, President of Universities UK. Estimates suggest the international student market alone is already worth at least £5 billion to the UK economy.
"This market is a powerful engine for future growth and one which the UK can legitimately claim to be a world leader, second only to the US. The Government could help grow this area of the economy by removing university sponsored students from net migration figures. They should do this because the majority of students simply come here, study and then leave."
Immigration Minister Damian Green and Home Secretary Theresa May announced the changes recently as a measure to combat abuse of the UK immigration system and reduce net migration from its current level of 250,000 to the 'tens of thousands' by the next election.
But universities are eager to separate student figures from those of other migrants as they claim international students continue to benefit the UK even after they have left.
"International students are also powerful ambassadors for the UK when they return to their countries," said Professor Thomas.
"These benefits continue to reverberate long after they have returned home. In addition, they bring tremendous cultural richness to our universities."
Mr Green has rejected the suggestion that new restrictions would dissuade international students from studying in the UK.
"There is no incompatibility between a strong university sector and border controls," he said.
"We are reforming the student visa system because it has been abused for too long, with providers selling immigration, not education."
The UK Visa Bureau is an independent immigration consultancy specialising in helping people apply for a UK visa with the British high commission