Edition 130 - February 2012

British Council urges UK government to learn from others’ visa policy missteps

Impact of visa changes on student mobility and outlook for the UK is a recently released British Council study that aims to make a case for caution by UK authorities keen to tighten international student access to the country. The report delivers information on the impact on international student flows of visa policy changes over the last decade in the United States and Australia, and looks at the interplay between national immigration policies and the international competitiveness of countries' education systems. In addition, it explores what the UK can learn from the experiences of others and “maps implications for the UK education sector”.

And what does that “map” look like? The UK's more restrictive position on student visas (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, March 2011) is likely 'pinch' the country at both ends of the higher education continuum. That is, at the point of recruitment and intake of foreign students and at the point of exit into post-study work experiences, there may be downward trends in numbers. The British Council points specifically to one major deterrent factor in the form of tougher English language requirements. It argues that English language programmes serve as a major “pathway” for students to progress on to higher education from within the UK. Meanwhile, as international students complete degrees in the country, avenues for post-study work are becoming more restrictive, notably with the discontinuation of the Tier 1 visa as of April 2012. The effects of bad publicity abroad with regard to these issues and specifically the closure of some private colleges (a sector which, according to the British Council, enrols some 50 000 international students in the UK) is also a concern. For example, evidence shows that Chinese student enrolments in New Zealand dropped significantly in the wake of bad international publicity focused on private college closures there in 2002/03.

Concerned about the long-term damage which the new student visa regulations are expected to have on UK education, the British Council's Director Education and Society, Jo Beall, is calling for an ”urgent review” of the visa policy.

British Council

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