A Home Affairs Select Committee report released yesterday has cautioned the government against recent proposals to tighten up student visa requirements.The government’s measures are designed to meet Prime Minister David Cameron’s pledge to cut net immigration to below 100,000 a year. The planned new student visa regime also intends to prevent fraud, and avoid the problems of the old system, which was “open to abuse” according to Immigration Minister, Damian Green.Mr. Green stated, “This government recognises the important contribution that international students make to the U.K. economy, but the old student visa regime neither controlled immigration nor protected legitimate students from being exploited by poor quality colleges”.However, the chairman of the cross-party committee, Labour MP Keith Vaz, has criticised the proposals. He commented, “Students are not migrants. They come from all over the world to study here, contributing to the economy both through payment of fees and wider spending.“Whilst we are right to seek to eliminate bogus colleges and bogus students, we need to ensure that we continue to attract the brightest and the best.”Vaz also criticised the evidence that the government used, “Generating policy based on flawed evidence could cripple the UK education sector. In the case of international students this could mean a significant revenue and reputational loss to the UK”.22% of the total student body at Oxford, including 41% of postgraduate research students, are from outside the EU. The international student market is estimated to be worth £40 billion to the UK economy, and the UK is the second most popular destination for international students after the USA.The committee’s report pointed to the past experiences of the USA and Australia, to illustrate the sensitivity of the international student market. Reforming the Australian student visa system is alleged to have contributed at least in part to a fall of 18.9% in applications between 2008-2009 and 2009-2010. In particular, the report disagreed with the government proposals to end the Post-Study Work Visa, which allows graduates to stay and work in the UK for two years after they have completed their degree.Some students do not see abolishing the Post Study Work Visa as problematic. Geoffrey Cheng, a first year engineer from Hong Kong, explained that he would want to apply for a job during his degree anyway, which would allow him to apply for a longer-term visa.However, he added, “the idea of restricting student visas is really annoying. It is much harder to apply for student visas now than 2 years ago.”Chung Wei-Chiu, an international student from Taiwan at Lincoln, called the government’s proposals “absolutely pointless”.He added, “I can understand why some MPs want to cut the number of foreign students in the UK. However, foreign students who get their degree in UK become more employable in their own country, and the UK government receives more income. It seems to me like a win-win situation.”Whilst the report concludes that a cap on student visas is “unnecessary and undesirable”, it does support proposals to tighten the accreditation of language schools. It also agreed with the government’s intentions to crack down on “bogus colleges and bogus students”.The National Union of Students has welcomed the Committee’s response. In a statement they said, “the extent to which the committee had to find ‘least worst’ options in the face of overwhelming Government desire to push the plans through demonstrated just how wrong-headed the current proposals were”.David Barclay, President of OUSU, called the report “timely and much needed”. He also commented, “It is very pleasing to see that the Committee took note of the OUSU submission.“Oxford students can be proud that their voice has been fully represented to the Government on this crucial issue.”A spokesperson for Oxford University said that the university is “seriously concerned” about the new visa proposals, which could cause “long-term damage”.“The government has said the review will focus on abuse of the system by dubious below-degree-level sponsors. Our concern is that the proposals would affect world-class and other institutions alike, with a dramatic negative effect on the UK’s higher education system and research base.”Christina Yan-Zhang, NUS International Students Officer, said, “As the Home Affairs Select Committee join the chorus of students, lecturers, universities, economists and business-people in criticizing the Government’s plans it is surely time for Theresa May to reconsider her determination to push through these damaging proposals”.An NUS survey found that of 8000 international students surveyed, nearly 70% said they would not come to the UK without a Post-Study Work option.
Top universities in Australia wield as much as 30% more economic influence than the UK’s leading grouping of research universities, according to a recent study.Recent analysis found that the “Group of Eight” (a collection of Australia’s leading universities) injected the equivalent of £37.9 billion into the economy in 2016, roughly £4.7 billion per institution.The Russell Group, by contrast and despite having 24 institutions, contributed only £3.6 billion per institutions, or £86.8 billion across the group, in the same period.Group of Eight universities are thought to benefit from their larger size than British universities, taking in an average of 18,000 students compared to around 11,000 at the average Russell Group university.Ian Jacobs, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of New South Wales (a Group of Eight member) commented that “The Go8 is an intense economic driver, even compared to the Russell Group, which is one of the most pre-eminent in the world.”However, Jacobs, a former vice-president at the University of Manchester, admitted that it would be “unwise” to “read too much” into side by side comparisons, though argued that they suggested “the Go8 is perhaps more impressive than we have thought.”Dr Gavan Conlon, the leader of the education team at London Economics who conducted the study, argued that the results were distorted by certain “natural advantages” in Australia, including its relatively closed economy.Other studies also suggest that the Russell Group makes a greater contribution to the economy through revenues generated by teaching and learning activities, which could total as much as £20.7 billion a year, compared to just £2.78 billion from the Group of Eight.Dr Conlon said that he had been surprised by the “spillover effect” of research from the Group of Eight, commenting that the “multiplier” of 9.76 for its research spending (the amount generated for every pound spent) was higher than expected. Money spent on research by the Russell Group, meanwhile, had a multiplier of just 5.5.Although many universities have commissioned their own studies of economic impacts, most have only considered the impacts of their expenditure, and Dr Conolon argues that more sophisticated analyses like his own should take into account the universities’ wider economic impact.