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Studying in the UK for non-EU students: jumping over the visa hurdles

“Coming to study at a UK university has become increasingly difficult, as would-be students get entangled in more complex and expensive visa requirements”, says James Pitman, managing director of the UK’s Study Group, a specialist provider of educational programmes for international students.

All applications for student visa by non-EU citizens are now under the regime of a point-based system or PBS. An individual must show a particular score to be eligible for a UK visa under the different categories. Points are awarded for qualifications, future expected earnings, sponsorship, English language skills and available capital to pay for cost of living.

Since July 2012 for example, more than 10,000 overseas students who apply for visas to study in Britain are to face compulsory interview tests as part of a new UK Border Agency (UKBA) drive to filter out abuse. UKBA staff are to be given a new power to refuse entry to any overseas students whose credibility remains in doubt after being interviewed. Those who fail to turn up for the interview will also be refused entry to Britain if they cannot give a reasonable explanation for not showing up.

The overseas student interview programme will target 5 per cent of those who apply to come to Britain from outside Europe. The programme follows a pilot scheme run last year under which more than 2,300 student visa applicants from 47 countries were interviewed by consular officials at 13 overseas posts. UKBA officials turned down 17 per cent of the applications for not having basic conversational English. But they said they could have potentially refused a further 32 per cent of those interviewed on the grounds that their credibility as genuine students was in doubt.

The current British government labels foreign students 'migrants' and targets them in its efforts to reduce migration. The latest figures show that net migration to Britain remains at a record high of more than 250,000 a year. Coming to study is the most common reason given by those who move to the British Isles, and overseas student migration forms the largest component in the annual net migration figure.

Also, the UK Border Agency has suspended the power of London Metropolitan University's to recruit new students from outside the EU. 2700 overseas students have been caught by this sudden ban and the university's vice-chancellor Malcolm Gillies has claimed that this decision would create a loss of 30 million GBP – nearly a fifth of the university's budget.

Others argue that universities such as London School of Economics, with a 42 per cent foreign student population or Imperial College London with 36 per cent, have diversity ingrained in their culture and seek out the brightest minds from overseas to add to the prestige of their undergraduate courses and postgraduate research programmes. “Without international students, these institutions would be financially and culturally worse off,” writes Pitman.

A committee on home affairs already estimated that restrictions on student visas will cost the UK between 1.3 and 3.6 billion GBP over the coming four years. Adam Roberts, president of the British Academy therefore stresses that higher education has performed consistently well over the past decade. Numbers of non-EU students, undergraduate and postgraduate, choosing to study in the UK have increased dramatically. He feels that abuse of student visas in certain sectors needs to be addressed. “But this should not be done in such a way as to threaten serious reductions in the numbers of legitimate students coming to study in our universities.”

Sources:
Studygroup
University World News

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