March 24, 2011

Tighter rules for UK student visas

By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education correspondent

Theresa May: "We will toughen up the entry requirements"

The rules for student visas into the UK are to be much tougher - after fears that this route of entry is being used dishonestly.

Home Secretary Theresa May said student visas were being abused and "too many were here to work and not to study".

She announced plans to cut the number of student visas by up to 80,000 - about a quarter of the current numbers.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper warned that rules must not damage an industry worth £5bn a year.

Mrs May told the House of Commons that the misuse of student visas had become a "symbol of a broken and abused immigration system".

Language rules
Tightening rules to stop false applications would be "in the best interests of legitimate students," she said.

The tougher rules will include a requirement for students to be able to speak English.

Mrs May said she wanted to end the situation where would-be students arrived at UK airports unable to even describe the courses they were about to begin.

There will also be tighter regulations on allowing the dependents of students to join them in the UK - and less flexibility in the number of years that overseas students can spend in the UK after courses are finished.

In response to concerns that students visas are being misused by economic migrants, there will be limits on the hours of paid work which overseas students will be allowed to carry out.

Universities had previously expressed fears about the loss of overseas students from tighter visa rules - but Universities UK said that their concerns had been taken into account.

Students at the University of Surrey discuss speaking English and studying
Many of the restrictions are targeted at students in private colleges - rather than universities.

Language colleges and providers of pre-university entry courses had warned of the damage to their businesses if visa rules make it difficult for legitimate students to enter the UK.

But Mrs May told MPs that such "pathway" courses into universities would be protected, if universities acted as sponsors to students.

Read full story here.

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