Home Secretary presses for tough international student visa controls

While accepting that immigration brings “many benefits” to the country, Home Secretary Amber Rudd made it clear in her Conservative Party Conference speech that her mission is to reduce net migration.

international student visa restrictions
With a distinctly post-Brexit tone, the newly appointed Home Secretary Amber Rudd has made it clear that her primary aim in her central government role is to tighten the rules around businesses recruiting from overseas and to prioritise jobs for skilled British workers.

See Amber Rudd's full conference speech here:

Tougher international student immigration restrictions

Closely following her intentions to tighten the restrictions on international business recruitment, Ms Rudd announced that her department would be looking to tailor the rules governing student immigration to align them more closely with the “the quality of the course and the quality of the educational institution”.International students from outside of the EU currently represent 167,000 of the 600,000 new migrants each year and have long formed a central part of the government’s target to reduce annual net migration to under 100,000.“I’m proud that we have world-leading centres of academic excellence,” she told the Conservative Party Conference. “It’s a testament to our country’s proud history and our top universities’ ability to evolve.“But the current system allows all students, irrespective of their talents and the university’s quality, favourable employment prospects when they stop studying.”
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New language requirements for student visas

Ms Rudd identified areas of weakness in the current international student visa system, including the freedom of the international student’s family to work in the UK and the relaxed approach to English language skills requirements.“Foreign students, even those studying English Language degrees, don’t even have to be proficient in speaking English,” she said. “We need to look at whether this one size fits all approach really is right for the hundreds of different universities, providing thousands of different courses across the country.“I’m passionately committed to making sure our world-leading institutions can attract the brightest and the best. But a student immigration system that treats every student and university as equal only punishes those we should want to help.”

International students: not pulling up the drawbridge

“So our consultation will ask what more can we do to support our best universities – and those that stick to the rules – to attract the best talent … while looking at tougher rules for students on lower quality courses.“This isn’t about pulling up the drawbridge. It’s about making sure students that come here, come to study.”

International students contribute £7 billion to UK economy

Responding to the Home Secretary’s announcement, Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said that the British people typically welcome overseas students and see them as a valuable contribution to the UK economy.“Polling has shown that the British public does not see international students as long-term migrants,” she said, “but as valuable, temporary visitors. International students come to the UK, study for a period, and then the overwhelming majority go home after their studies. International (non-EU) students already make a £7 billion contribution to the UK economy, generating almost 137,000 jobs in communities in every region of the UK.“International students also enrich our campuses and the experience of UK students, both academically and culturally. Many return home having forged strong professional and personal links in this country that provide long-term, ‘soft power’ benefits for the UK.”Seamus Nevin, The Institute of Directors head of employment and skills also responded with disappointment to Ms Rudd’s conference speech. “There are different ways to control immigration,” he said, “and we should see Brexit as a chance to design a system which addresses local concerns, without damaging business or universities.”

University fees could rise under new student visa restrictions

James Pitman, Managing Director, Higher Education UK and Europe of the Study Group, expressed concerns about the impact on the level of fees UK universities will have to charge if international students numbers are significantly reduced. "The home secretary needs to be honest that a significant reduction in the number of international students will lead to upward pressure on the fees paid by British students, reduced investment in facilities and damage to local economies."Josh Hardie, CBI Deputy Director-General, agrees. “The UK's universities are a crown jewel in supporting innovation, growth and skills development," he said. "Many courses are sustained here in the UK because we can attract students and faculty from around the world. The Government must tread carefully on any changes to student immigration to make sure we don't undermine this critical sector for national prosperity.”

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