29 June 2009

Universities report problems with UK student visa applications

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The Financial Times has reported that the UK could miss out on thousands of international students in the coming academic year because of a tighter immigration regime.

UK universities are warning that student visa applications that once took days can now require three months.

Leeds University Business School has received record numbers of applicants for its courses but fears many will not arrive. Other student visa applications are being rejected for minor discrepancies, it said.

Universities UK, the higher education action group, said it had anecdotal evidence the problem could cost the country millions in income from fees and student spending.

Diana Warwick, chief executive of Universities UK, told The Financial Times: "We are in serious danger of sending out a message that the UK does not welcome international students."

Universities supported the introduction of the points-based visa system by the UK last year to allow in only skilled immigrants and genuine students.

In the past potential students were allowed to arrive in the UK with a student visa armed only with university offers, leaving them free not to take up a course. Now, they must specify the institution and show they can cover the costs of studying before receiving a visa.

Universities UK said visa officers were being too picky or were not fully trained.

Leeds University Business School said officials had rejected applications because they were not aware of bodies authorised to award qualifications. In some countries 85 per cent of applications were being turned down.

Peter Moizer, dean of Leeds University Business School, said some students would now miss essential pre-entry English courses. Worse, the UK could be perceived as too difficult and students will look to Australia and the US instead.

The Home Office said the new system was "tough but fair".

The UK Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in UK visas and immigration services.


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