It’s no secret that during her previous tenure as Home Secretary, the UK’s new Prime Minister Theresa May took a tough approach to immigration.

This includes international students, as May believes that universities have become a ‘back door’ route for economic migrants who want to find work in the UK.

Previously, May attempted to introduce reforms that would force international students to return to their home countries after graduation, or apply for a new visa if they wanted to change their course or apply for a work permit.

However, the proposal was shelved following protests from several government agencies.

As the head of a new government, though, it appears as though May intends to push through her earlier plans and tighten student visa regulations in order to curb its abuse.

According to The Telegraph, several of its government sources have hinted that Home Office and Department for Education officials will soon be asked to look into what can be done to crack down on ‘bogus’ overseas students.

A few of the options likely to be explored would include getting rid of so-called “Mickey Mouse” courses at low-ranking institutions and instructing universities to stop marketing their courses as a means to find work in the UK.

An estimated one in five foreign students overstays their visa and continues to live in the UK long after they have finished their studies, said the Home Office.

There appears to be a bit of a tussle over whether the government will commit to its previously stated target of reducing “net migration” to below 100,000, as Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson have suggested that there will be no set targets, while May herself has reiterated her commitment to achieving the target.

Nick Timothy, May’s special adviser during her term as Home Minister and currently her Chief of Staff, supports May’s view of a need to exercise greater control in granting student visas.

Last year, Timothy wrote an article stating that the Cameron-led government at the time was not serious about cutting down immigration.

“The generosity of our student visa rules alone make the net migration target almost impossible to achieve,” he wrote.

But not everyone shares Timothy’s or May’s views on the issue.

Speaking to The Independent, Mostafa Rajaai, International Officer for the National Union of Students, said: “Thanks to Theresa May’s approach to international students while she was in charge of the Home Office, we have witnessed, for the first time in 30 years, a drop in the number of international students coming to the UK. This is while the number of internationally mobile students has been rising year on year.

“As it stands, the British student visa regime is one of the toughest and least welcoming in the world. By tightening it further, the Higher Education sector will lose out on hundreds of thousands of international students choosing other countries over the UK,” he added. 

Image via Associated Press

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