UK home secretary pushes for stricter visa rules on international students taking ‘lower-quality courses’

The UK’s home secretary Amber Rudd has announced that the Home Office is looking into implementing tougher measures to curb the flow of non-EU international students into the country, including a two-tier system for student visas.

Speaking at a Conservative Party conference on Tuesday, Rudd suggested that student visas should be issued based on the quality of the institution and course of study.

She said the Home Office would hold a consultation on the new student immigration system as part of the drive to reduce net migration to “sustainable levels”.

In her speech, Rudd criticised the current system’s effectiveness, saying that foreign students “don’t even have to be proficient in speaking English” and questioned whether it was actually “adding value to our economy”.

“I’m passionately committed to making sure our world-leading institutions can attract the brightest and the best, but a student immigration system that treats every student and university as equal only punishes those we should want to help.

“So our consultation will ask what more can we do to support our best universities – and those that stick to the rules – to attract the best talent … while looking at tougher rules for students on lower-quality courses,” she added.

Rudd also proposed a crackdown on foreign workers, saying that they should not be “taking jobs British people could do”.

However, critics have lambasted Rudd for her stance, which mirrors that of her predecessor and current Prime Minister Teresa May.

Paul Blomfield, the Labour MP for Sheffield Central and co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on international students, called the measures “spectacularly ill-informed” and “an act of madness”.

“She [Rudd] doesn’t seem to know how many universities we have in the UK or understand the current rules for which she is responsible, let alone appreciate the enormous contribution international students make to the universities and cities where they study,” he said, as quoted by the Guardian.

Higher education experts renewed their call to remove international students from being included in the net migration target.

General secretary of the University and College Union, Sally Hunt, told the paper: “This proposal to limit overseas students to particular universities and courses equates to pulling up the drawbridge and sending a message that the UK is closed for business. Ministers need to take a very different approach and support universities by removing international students from the net migration target altogether.”

Chief executive of Universities UK, Nicola Dandridge, agreed, saying: “Polling has shown that the British public does not see international students as long-term migrants, but as valuable, temporary visitors. International students come to the UK, study for a period, and then the overwhelming majority go home after their studies.”

In July, the Home Office launched a pilot program for Master’s students at four top English universities, making it easier for them to apply for a visa, and would allow them to stay in the UK for an additional six months after completing their studies to facilitate securing a job.

The pilot – which involves  University of OxfordUniversity of CambridgeUniversity of Bath, and Imperial College London – has other universities concerned about preferential treatment, which may affect international student enrollment for smaller institutions. 

Image via Associated Press

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