By Myriam Dijck
A radical overhaul of visa rules for students and graduates has left universities fearing that future international students could steer clear of the UK.
From April onwards, newly graduated international students in the UK are only allowed to be in the country if they manage to secure a £20,000 job once they finish their course.
Graduate schemes or unpaid work placements will become out of reach for foreign students as the ‘post-study work route’, which had no minimum salary requirement, will be abolished.
“The UK may not be as attractive anymore to study,” said Ed Beales, a Kingston University admissions manager. “Especially with the removal of the post-study work route, other places such as Australia might be more desirable for international student study.”
The overhaul is part of a crack down on foreigners who want to work in the country using student visas. According to the UK Border Agency, the new rules will cut the abuse and ensure that only the “brightest and the best students” are allowed to stay and work.
Mr Beales said: “The idea of the policy – and I understand where it is coming from – is to stop malicious use of the system, like when people enter the UK under a student visa and then disappear off the face of the earth never to materialise at the place of study.
“However, it can potentially make it more difficult for legitimate students to secure a visa.”
Previously, graduates could stay in the country for up to two years and do unpaid work experience in the form of graduate schemes or internships.
Under the new rules graduates will need to have a job offer with a minimum salary of £20,000 or leave the UK.
Instead, a new route will be opened for graduate entrepreneurs, who get up to two years to work on their business idea as long as they have £50,000 to invest in it.
However, a selection of 1,000 graduates will be exempt and can stay even if they do not have the funds and have “world-class innovative ideas”.
Damian Green, the Minister of State for Immigration, said: “In the past, too many students have come to the UK to work rather than study and this abuse must end. With the introduction of the Graduate Entrepreneur route and the restrictions on student work, we are reforming the system to deliver immigration to benefit Britain.”
There are also worries about cutting off a growing sector of the economy. According to the report ‘Education: A Great British Export’, the higher education export sector was worth £7.87bn in 2008/9. Within this sector tuition fees account for 31 per cent of its value.
The House of Commons’ Home Affairs Committee stated that “International students …pay more than UK students for their courses and, in effect, subsidise the educational system in the UK.”
At Kingston University, overseas tuition fee income accounts for almost 12 per cent of the total income. If the strict rules lead to a lower number of international students going to Kingston, this could hit the University’s budget hard, especially as next year, major government funding cuts will come into effect.