Home Office Minister tells foreign students to Please come to UK

The UK has been forced to launch a global charm offensive to convince foreign students it is not against immigration, MP Damian Green has said.

The Home Office minister said it was “essential” to shift the perception, after recent rule changes, that the doors were closed to non-EU students.

“Please come, we have got some of the world’s best universities,” he said.

Mr Green is under pressure from business and university chiefs to relax visa restrictions.

They want foreign students to be exempted from the government’s target of reducing net migration from its current level of about 250,000 a year to “tens of thousands” by 2015.

But MPs on the Commons business select committee were told it was too early to say with certainty that the government’s policy had significantly damaged UK universities.

 

“If the thought is out there that we have changed the system to make it more unfriendly then reversing that perception is important ”

Simon Walker, director general of the Institute for Directors, said: “Remarks that are made in Westminster, or around the country, that go do down quite well locally are often on the front page of The Times of India and the New Straits Times the next day, because of the internet, and the impacts on this on perceptions of Britain are quite strong.”

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of UK Universities, said she could “live with” with any one of the government’s immigration policies taken in isolation even if some, such as a minimum salary of £20,000 for post-study work visas, appeared overly tough to some potential undergraduate or graduate students.

But, she argued, it was the “aggregate” of the changes and the way they had been implemented that was in danger of putting Britain at a disadvantage to its major higher education competitors such as the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

She said there had been a 10% increase in applications from non-EU students to British universities this year but future projections and “anecdotal” evidence from recruitment fairs suggested the rate of increase would slow.

“The 10% increase, or whatever it may be, is of course positive and it’s wholly welcome but that’s against the background of us having had a very dominant and wonderfully successful market position and we are slipping.

“The international student market is growing and we want to be part of that.”

 

A lot of the increase had come from Chinese students “which is completely wonderful” but they tended to study business and management but there were signs that students from Brazil and India, who tend to study scientific and technical subjects, were choosing countries that looked more welcoming.

Mr Green insisted that Britain’s universities would not be harmed by the government’s visa restrictions, which he said were mainly aimed at closing down bogus colleges and preventing students without a job from staying in the country and claiming benefits after they had finished their course.

But he also appeared to concede that the government’s anti-immigration rhetoric was going down badly in Britain’s target higher education markets.

Asked how much work was being done by the government to change the perception that the UK had turned against foreign students, he said: “A lot.”

“And it’s slightly swimming against the tide because, if the thought is out there that we have changed the system to make it more unfriendly, then reversing that perception is important and difficult but very, very essential.

“We have changed the system to cut out the abuse, we have changed the system to skew it towards the best students, skew it towards universities.

“But doing that at the same time as cutting out abuse is a nuanced message to send out.”

He said now that the changes were in place “I think the sensible thing to do is to let the system bed down while we relentlessly go round the world saying the brightest students and the best are as welcome as ever to Britain”.

Source: BBC

One Response to Home Office Minister tells foreign students to Please come to UK

  1. admin says:

    Under new considerations, students could be exempted from immigration figures to help hit the Coalition target to reduce net immigration as part of the rules to help hit a pledge to cut drastically the number of non-Europeans settling in Britain.

    Prime Minister David Cameron is understood to be concerned that visa restrictions are stopping wealthy foreigners from studying in British universities. 

    Removing students from the rules would help Mr Cameron to hit a target of cutting the numbers of people coming to live in the UK to tens of thousands of people from outside the European Union.

    Figures published in May showed that annual net migration to Britain currently stands at a record high of 250,000 a year. But the Government has pledged to cut the total to below 100,000 by the next general election in 2015.
    The idea of excluding students was rejected by immigration minister Damian Green last month, amid concerns that he would be seen as “fiddling” the figures. It is understood that Mr Cameron is now said to be increasingly sympathetic, with claims from the Home Office that the cap on students are costing the economy £2.6billion.

    One Downing Street source said: “The Prime Minister understands these arguments and is definitely considering a change of policy.” There are no plans for any immediate announcement, however.
    The idea of removing students from official immigration figures was floated by a Conservative and Labour MP on the 7th July, who say they are trying to build a cross party consensus on the issue.

    Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi and Labour MP Paul Blomfield said there was a “growing perception abroad that in terms of higher education, Britain is closed for business.”

    They added: “Recent changes to the student visa system have unfortunately broadcast the message that foreign students are unwelcome. We’ve already seen a dramatic fall in students coming from traditional markets such as India.”
    The MPs said that the Government as right to crack down on bogus students using fake course to settle in the UK. But the crackdown meant that “genuine students are getting caught in the net. Our borders policy should not be in competition with our growth policy.”

    They pointed out that Australia has been through a similar experience – first tightening the rules on visas for foreign students, and then relaxing them. Mr Zahawi and Mr Blomfield conclude: “The Government will not act as long as it fears the charge of ‘fiddling the figures’. Above all it would send out a positive message to prospective students throughout the world – you are welcome in the UK.”

    In May universities warned that the crackdown risked deterring legitimate foreign students and robbing the country of billions of pounds worth of investment. The heads of universities across Britain suggested that the tough rules around student visas may drive bright applicants towards institutions in other countries. In a letter, signed by 68 chancellors, governors and university presidents, to Mr Cameron, they called on the Government to remove students from net migration figures to help drive the economy and boost university income.

    It came after fears that students are being unfairly targeted as part of a Coalition drive to cut overall levels of immigration.

    Universities complain that the new £9,000-a-year tuition fees for British and European Union students do not cover their costs, and they need to turn to foreigners who are charged 50 per cent more.

    Under pressure from education and industry leaders to review recent curbs on student visas, Prime Minister David Cameron is likely to reverse policy and remove international students from official immigration figures, a measure that may relax some of the restrictions.

    Some universities have reported a fall in applications from India, but the actual figures will be known later this year when the academic session begins.

    As education and industry leaders petitioned Cameron with figures that international students bring 8 billion pounds annually to the British economy.

    Immigration minister Damian Green has been using falling numbers of student visas granted (62 per cent drop in student visas in the first quarter of 2012) as evidence that the Cameron government is on course to deliver its election pledge to reduce net immigration from ‘hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands’.

    Green has consistently rejected arguments that international students should not be counted in net immigration figures because most of them return to their countries at the end of their studies.

    Students comprise the largest category of migrants to UK. One of the changes that has reportedly put off Indian students is the closure of the post-study work visa in April, which allowed self-financing students to recover some of the cost of studying here by working for two years after their course is over.

    …source: Daily Telegraph and Economic Times