UK closes consultation on student immigration; Tighter controls likely

For some non-EU citizens who wish to study in the UK, applying now for a student visa may be advisable. The UK Government concluded a consultation on stricter student immigration rules on 31 January 2011. Immigration Minister Damien Green has said recently that stricter regulations are "in the best interest of legitimate students".

According to the UK Border Agency, the eight-week consultation received over 30,000 responses. The consultation proposed a number of measures for curbing UK student immigration, including:

  • reducing the number of people coming to the UK to study at 'below degree' level
  • introducing tougher English language requirements
  • making students prove academic progression to extend their visa
  • limiting student work-rights and reducing the circumstances under which a student can bring family members to the UK
  • implementing a stricter accreditation process for educationalinstitutions, with more rigorous inspections

Presumably, many of the responses to the consultation were from people working in the education sector who stand the lose under stricter student immigration rules. The education sector is a 5 billion pound-per-year industry in the UK and depends heavily on higher fees paid by international students who come to study on a Tier 4 (Student) visa.

In a speech to the Reform Think Tank conference in London, Green said that he recognised the importance of student immigration to the UK's economy, but that he wanted to eliminate abuses in the system; He mentioned disreputable colleges as being a problem.

"Some of those who come to study at less reputable institutions are genuinely in search of education which they do not receive," Green said.

"They may have been misled by questionable agents overseas or by these colleges. In either case, unsuspecting students may end up out of pocket, without the education they wanted and stuck illegally in the UK," he added.

Green said the Government would "do nothing to prevent those coming here to study degree level courses", although its unclear whether some or all of the proposed measures -- such as family re-unification and work rights -- would apply to those studying degree level courses.

The UK Border Agency said the results of the consultation would be announced in the coming weeks.