Since 2013, more than 90,000 international students hailing from outside the EU have had their visas cut short by the UK Home Office, according to figures from BBC News.

In the very same period, 410 UK colleges and universities have had the licence that permits them to legally sponsor a non-EU student revoked, leaving thousands of students unable to complete their course of study.

In February this year, the BBC reported that 350 students from the London School of Business and Finance (LSBF) were told they had one month to leave the country after the private business college lost its licence to teach non-EU students, leaving many students unable to complete programmes that cost up to £8,500 a year.

The Home Office claims that the curtailments form part of a major drive to crack down on immigration misconduct.

According to the National Union of Students (NUS), international students headed for the UK are being “scapegoated” by the UK government as they seek to meet net migration targets.

The inclusion of international students in UK immigration targets has long been a topic for debate as many respected politicians, including former cabinet minister Lord Heseltine and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, have voiced concern that it could be extremely detrimental to the global reputation of UK universities.

In 2014, Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to cut net migration to less than 100,000 a year by 2015, while UK Home Secretary Theresa May vowed to reduce it to mere tens of thousands.

Now, the figures released by the UK Home Office under Freedom of Information rules show that 99,635 students had their visas curtailed in the three years leading up to December 2015:

  • 33,210 in 2013
  • 34,210 in 2014
  • 32,215 in 2015

Of the UK institutions that lost their licence to sponsor, there were:

  • 199 in 2013
  • 129 in 2014
  • 72 in 2015

According to the BBC, some of the establishments who had licences revoked later had them reinstated, but overall, a total of 301 UK colleges and universities lost possession of their licence between 2013 and the end of last year.

Mostafa Rajaai, international students’ officer at the NUS said the “shocking” figures represent “clear evidence [that] the Home Office is following a political agenda, rather than trying to remove real cheats.”

“It has a clear disregard for the right to a fair trial and the past six years have seen the steady erosion of international students’ rights within the UK,” he told the BBC.

Rajaai referenced a previous NUS survey which found that the majority of non-EU students who study in the UK believe the nation’s government is becoming increasingly hostile towards its foreign student population.

“If the government continues to scapegoat overseas students in order to hit its immigration targets, the damage to the UK’s reputation as a desirable place to study will only worsen,” adds Rajaai.

“The only solution is for immigration targets to be scrapped completely.”

According to official data published by the Office of National Statistics in January this year, a total 192,000 overseas students arrived in the UK on a long-term study basis in June 2015, down from a peak of 238,000 in June 2010.

Education professionals believe the fall is largely due to the UK government’s immigration crack down.

Image via Flickr.

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