07 September 2010

UK immigration caps on non-EU applicants may harm universities

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The success and reputation of universities in the UK could be at risk if further restrictions are placed on non-EU applicants for a UK visa, according to Nicola Dandridge of Universities UK.

Dandridge, the chief executive of the higher education action group, warned that “any changes that may hinder the mobility of international students will damage the success of UK universities.”

Her comments come as the current UK Immigration minister, Damian Green, promised further restrictions on entry into the UK. The UK’s coalition government has a target to reduce net migration from outside the EU to tens of thousands, reduced from a figure of 196,000 last year. “We need steady downward pressure on many routes to long-term immigration in order to hit our net migration commitment” he said yesterday.

Research from the Office of National Statistics released last month showed an increase of 35% to the number of visas issued to students in the UK. Mr Green called the number of foreign students let into the UK “unsustainable”.

However, general secretary of the University & College Union Sally Hunt said “"We need to be able to offer places to the world's best students. The last thing we want to do is send a message that those students are not welcome here.” The Union describes the trend towards curbs on immigration as “populist policies”, pointing out that Mr Green’s speech comes as he has returned from India during which he encouraged students to come to the UK.

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