Home secretary, Amber Rudd, is set to rethink visa plans for international students at UK universities.
After government concerns over immigration back in October, Rudd announced that too many international students were staying on in the UK after their course had ended, breaking the terms of their visa. She suggested that the government would give students at the ‘best universities’ a chance to stay in the UK and work after completing their degrees, but wanted to implement tougher rules for “students on lower quality courses.”
Just weeks later, however, a government report obtained by The Times stated that in reality only 1% of international students actually break the terms of their visa and stay in the UK after their course ends.
So now Rudd is seeking to come to a compromise with universities so that visa entitlement is widened to many more universities.
According to The Times, one option includes allowing students on ”strategically important courses – even if they aren’t attending elite universities – to be granted work visas after graduation.”
Another option that has been mentioned is to have an Olympic medal-style system. This will rank universities into bands of gold, silver and bronze based on the quality of their teaching. This will then be used to base visa entitlements.
However, there is some confusion about this suggested medal model. Many Russel Group universities are expected to do badly in the university rankings, especially after British universities have tumbled in world rankings this year. London School of Economics is included in this prediction, however, around 70% of its students are from overseas.
A trial, announced in August, sparked anger where four Elite universities – Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial and Bath – were allowed to process visas for international students wishing to get on to one of their masters’ programmes. They would then be allowed to stay in the UK for six months upon graduating, two months longer than the usual visa terms. But if this two year trial is successful, it could become a model for other elite universities.
According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa), around 18% of all students in UK higher education come from other countries to study. The majority of international students come from China, making up almost a fifth of the total. The next largest group are Indian students, comprising of 5.3% of international students, followed by students from Germany.
A Home Office spokesman told The Times: “This is not about pulling up the drawbridge to international students but making sure those students that come here, come to study.”