Strict Tier 4 visa rules are costly for UK universities to navigate

Universities and colleges told MPs this week that they are being forced to spend millions of pounds to make sure that they comply with the UK's strict Tier 4 student visa rules.

The London School of Economics (LSE) reportedly spends £250,000 a year to make sure they are not violating the UK's immigration rules and to make sure they properly understand regulations governing the entry of non-European Union students. According to Simeon Underwood, academic registrar at the LSE, five years ago the school was only spending £50,000 a year. Other colleges have said that they have had to recruit more than a dozen members of staff to ensure they are complying with the immigration rules.

The strict rules were put in place in an effort to crack down on bogus colleges.

Underwood explained that non-EU students were a major part of the LSE's student population; so in an effort to continue recruiting international students, the school had little choice but to substantially increase expenditure on staff, etc to make sure that they comply with the UK's immigration rules.

MPs are currently investigating the issue of student visas after a report published in March by the National Audit Office found serious errors in the way the UK Borders Agency (UKBA) implemented Tier 4 visa changes. The report claimed that up to 50,000 bogus students may have been improperly issued UK Tier 4 visas.

"The rules have gone too far," Timothy Blake, principal of the London School of English said. "Legitimate students are being seriously affected by rules designed to take out bogus students."

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