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British Council, Universities UK oppose student visa changes

Two leading organisations the British Council and Universities UK have opposed the recent changes to student visa rules that may reduce Britain's attraction as a destination for students from India and other countries.

Of all the changes, the most controversial is the abolition of the post-study work visa from April, which allowed self-financing students from India and other non-EU countries to recover some of the cost of their courses here as well as gain valuable work experience for two years.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said: We support the elimination of abuse in the visa system but are concerned that an unintended consequence of the changes to Tier 4 is that legitimate students will be put off, or prevented from studying in the UK.

She added: We are particularly concerned about limited provision for post-study employment in the new rules. We recognise that unrestricted access to the labour market is not possible in the current economic climate, but the new rules risk having a disproportionate impact on particular sectors, regions and professions, and reducing the global talent pool from which employers can recruit.

Amidst reports of falling number of student applications from India, the British Council has called for an urgent review of the changes to the student visa system, particularly the closure of the popular post-study work visa from April this year.

The British Council, which is responsible for promoting British education overseas, presented a detailed report to the government on the likely impact the recent student visa changes will have, and compared the experiences of Australia and US in this regard.

In a report titled 'Impact of Visa Changes on Student Mobility and Outlook for the UK', the British Council said: Students from certain countries who mainly study postgraduate courses in the UK such as India, Pakistan and others -- will be affected by the removal of the post-study work visa.

The sooner this situation is addressed, the more contained the damage of bad publicity overseas will be. Indians are among the highest number of international students coming to the UK every year, but the closure of the post-study work visa is likely to be seen as a major deterrent.

There are already reports of a decline of nearly 30 per cent in applications from the Indian sub-continent. International students are estimated to contribute over 14 billion pounds annually to the UK economy. Last week, Immigration minister Damian Green announced that new rules will come into force within weeks to cut abuse of the student visa route and ensure that only the brightest and the best students can stay and work in the UK.

Dandridge said: The UK is already losing market share in what is a growing market and reducing our competitiveness further will amount to a missed opportunity for growth.

The option of post-study work is a valuable incentive to prospective students to chose to study in the UK, even if many don't take it up. According to the National Union of Students, over three quarters of international students it surveyed said that the availability of the post-study work option was a very important factor in deciding to study in the UK.

As many as 67 per cent said that they would not recommend the UK as a study destination if it was abolished. The report said: Alongside the statistics, this suggests that a significant number of potential students would be discouraged from applying to study in the UK, given the knowledge that post-study employment opportunities for them were vastly reduced.

Published date : 22 Feb 2012 03:04PM

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