Proposed changes to the UK’s student visa system have provoked outrage from the international education sector.
The UK Border Agency is considering regulations that would deny international students visas for qualifications falling into the National Qualification Framework (NQF) Level 3 category. These include A-Levels, International Baccalaureate or Foundation courses.
A petition against the proposals, which would only grant visas to students taking NQF 4 courses, has accrued more than 7,500 signatures on the Downing Street website.
The Shadow Minister for Immigration, Damian Green, warns the move will have “serious consequences for genuine language schools. If the Government adopts these proposals, it could effectively close every language school across the country”.
James Pitman, the managing director of Study Group, the UK’s largest independent supplier of international students to universities in Britain, agrees that the international education industry is under threat.
“The changes would cripple an education and training export industry that earns universities £5.3 billion and the economy £32 billion annually, and is responsible for around 28,000 jobs in HE alone. Many of those jobs, including those of many of our staff, are now at risk,” says Mr Pitman.
“Foundation courses and A-levels taught in the UK are the most popular route to university for international students for a reason. Academic systems around the world are not always aligned to our universities’ entry requirements, with many being 12 years in length rather than our 13-year model.
“Students who undertake pre-study here are better prepared academically to get into their degree programme of choice. In addition there is vast evidence to show that they perform better at university.”
The decision on whether to implement the changes will be made tomorrow.