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New visa regulations will affect institutions, not students

November 2008 – The new points-based visa system for students announced last week will place additional responsibilities on UK institutions, but should be invisible to foreign students in the short term, according to leading provider of international education, Study Group.

James Pitman, Managing Director, Study Group, comments: "For the vast majority of international students wanting to study in Britain, the application process under the tier-4 system will barely change. It is the institutions which will be required to issue certificates of sponsorship and keep better tabs on students when they arrive so as to report non-enrolment and prolonged absenteeism."

Recently, the requirements for foreigners interested in studying in Britain have tightened, with the introduction of biometric visas, ID cards and now the new points-based system. At the same time, the USA is relaxing some of the stringent visa restrictions imposed after the 11 September terrorist attacks.

James Pitman continues: "The government has introduced these measures to make the system more secure, transparent and efficient, and it is up to institutions to work together to ensure that they are implemented with minimal impact on the student. The United States has historically been our biggest competitor as an Anglophone destination for foreign students. We therefore need to ensure that we do not lose our edge as recent events such as Barack Obama’s election victory and the easing of visa regulations across the Atlantic could make America more appealing.

"One issue the government does need to address is the requirements for biometric visas implemented earlier this year. For prospective students who do not live in major cities, obtaining a visa requires them to travel to their nearest centre at their own expense. One student from Vladivostok had to fly over 6,000km to Moscow to apply for a visa to take his A-levels at Bellerbys College. This is quite a process and is likely to put some people off coming to Britain to study. International education represents a £12bn export industry and we do not want to jeopardise this by coming across as inaccessible."

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