Comments by Sanwar Ali:
Who would have imagined that such a pandemic would exist in 2020, that would cause such enormous changes to society and how we do things. It seems that due to closures there will be fewer choices of airlines, holiday companies, restaurants, pubs, etc. Now it seems that some English language test centres used for UK visa applications will close due to reduction in demand caused by the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. There is ongoing controversy over how long the Government Job Retention scheme should last, which could potentially continue to help English language test centres. It seems many European schemes such as the German scheme are more generous. However, job retention schemes will not last forever.
Several English language testing centres, used by the Home Office’s UK Visa and Immigration department, have been forced into administration as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. According to a report published by Pie News, at least 15 centres have gone into administration, with stakeholders warning that more could close.
The news follows a recent report that estimates an economic loss exceeding £510 million for all English UK members for the first three quarters of 2020. The interim chief executive of English UK, Jodie Gray, said: “The future is very uncertain. We fear that we will see many more UK ELT centres close their doors permanently due to COVID-19.”
“To some extent, the government’s job retention scheme has masked the impact of the pandemic on the sector,” Gray added.
Tier 4 visa international students nervous about coming to the UK to study
Gray highlighted that the withdrawal of the government’s support scheme and students who were initially planning to postpone their courses but have since decided not to travel to the UK and are likely to ask for refunds, have left the UK’s ELT sector facing several challenges.
Gray said; “It’s heart-breaking as we will inevitably see members that were previously thriving businesses go under.”
The latest report published by English UK in July shows that student numbers have plummeted by 82%.
English UK has been lobbying for extended UK visa validity for international students unable to travel to the UK because of the pandemic, and if up to date information is needed for such students, the original fee to cover the cost of the application.
Gray said: “There is absolutely something that can be done about this. While not every ELT business can be saved, we can ensure that as many survive as possible with the help of the UK government in three areas.”
“[These are] short and medium-term business support, a sympathetic UK immigration system and promotion of UK ELT on a national scale,” Gray said.
Visa flexibility for students
In June, the Home Office agreed to increased visa flexibility for international students for stays in the UK of up to six months after extensive lobbying from English UK and other organisations. Increased flexibility was meant to support the ELT sector amid the economic losses caused by coronavirus.
The government confirmed greater visa flexibility for students taking English language courses when announcing further details of its points-based visa and immigration system on 13 July.
People taking English language courses for six to 11 months only requires an entry visa. No sponsorship is needed from an organisation in the UK.
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