New British Prime Minister Theresa May is said to be planning a crackdown on students in a bid to shut the door on immigrants with student visas whose primary aim is really to work in the UK.
The PM is believed to be backing calls for a restricted number of student visas to be awarded to ensure that it is only the best students who are allowed to study at British universities.
During her time as Home Secretary, May was instrumental in the closure of so-called ‘bogus’ colleges and the limiting of visas for students on certain further education courses.
It is thought that the Government believes that further crackdowns can help to cut levels of overall migration. Sources claim that officials from the Department for Education and those from the Home Office are to be tasked with investigating options for clamping down on student visas.
The Home Office believes that one in five of all international students overstay their visa periods and continue to live in the UK long after they are legally allowed to stay. Officials are expected to look at further preventative measures to stop this trend, together with ways in which students can be prevented from taking up places at low-ranking colleges offering low-quality courses.
Another measure predicted could be the banning of educational institutions from advertising their courses in such a way as to indicate that working in Britain is a likely outcome of securing a place.
The plans emerged as part of May’s reinforcement of her commitment to reducing net migration figures despite an apparent step away from a sub-100,000 target by Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Foreign Secretary and former London mayor Boris Johnson.
As part of former Prime Minister David Cameron’s government, May continually faced opposition from other ministers as a result of plans to curb migration. Chancellor George Osborne, together with Department for Business, Innovation and Skills officials attempted to thwart her plans regarding students as they believed in the economic value of international students for both the UK economy and individual universities, where foreign students traditionally pay higher tuition fees.
DBIS and the Treasury wanted to relax student visa regulations and remove the number of students from immigration figures.
In 2015, the Treasury predicted a year-on-year rise in the number of students of 55,000, leading to an increase in the numbers of these migrants from non-EU counties to a level of 320,000 by the year 2020. This, government documents claimed, would lead to a £1 billion boost for the British economy.
End for opposition
One of May’s first tasks as Prime Minister, however, was to axe both DBIS and Osborne as Chancellor. The brief on universities was then transferred to the Department for Education with May’s fervent ally Justine Greening, as Education Secretary, at the helm.
In the year ending in June 2015, the net migration among non-EU students reached 93,000 and, overall, it is now near to the record high of 335,000 experienced last year.