LONDON – International students have had to suffer the consequences of the British government‘s immigration policy as the possibility to attain a two year post-study work visa has been removed and credibility interviews are used to cut down student numbers.
The United Kingdom issues between 200 and 300 thousand visas each years and international students are therefore easy targets in the government´s attempt to reduce net migration to the country from “hundreds of thousands” to “tens of thousands”.
As a consequence, the British government has created an unbearable uncertainty for foreign nationals studying in the country who collectively make the largest short-term impact on net migration figures. Bulgarian and Romanian students have, for example, faced many difficulties because of transitional arrangements put in place by the UK government requiring a work permit. This will come to an end in 2014 when employment and movement restrictions will be removed from these nationals in all countries of the European Union.
“Until now the process has been complex and bureaucratic and can take months to complete. This has had a detrimental impact on these students and their studies. This issue has been brought up various times in the British Parliament, to the UK Border Agency and to organisations within the education sector, but with little success,” says Daniel Stevens, International Students’ Officer at the national union of students in the UK (NUSUK).
Removing students from migration figures
NUSUK has called for the removal of international students from net migration figures, a move supported by Universities UK, the Institute of Directors and many others. NUSUK has informed parliamentarians about its position and lobbied for a change, for example by appearing before the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Migration. This call has been supported by the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee, the Home Affairs Select Committee, the Public Accounts Select Committee, the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee and House of Lords EU Sub-Committee. This NUSUK campaign, Give the Home Office the Yellow Card, calls for the UK government to stop treating international students as a political football.
“We have secured significant victories, successfully helping to overturn the decision to remove the London Metropolitan´s licence to recruit international students. We successfully raised awareness about the ineffective police registration processes in London so that those students were no longer required to register within seven days. In addition, we raised awareness of the strict monitoring that international students faced in universities and worked to secure a firm clarification from the UK Border Agency that higher education institutions do not need to have more onerous monitoring procedures in place for international students than for domestic ones,” says Stevens.
International students are not a burden
Mark Harper, the British Minister for Immigration, has stated in an interview that the government aims at encouraging the brightest and best students to study at UK universities. The European Students´ Union (ESU) criticises harshly that policy and is opposed to placing additional barriers on students.
“The UK has been an attractive destination for international students for the past decades, especially those that want to improve their English skills. All of these students contribute not only to the society but also to the British economy. It is not a solution to anything to close down the borders to students and they should not be considered as a burden to the UK,” says Rok Primozic, Vice-Chair of ESU.
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The European Students’ Union, headquartered in Brussels, is the umbrella organisation of 47 national unions of students from 38 European countries. ESU represents and promotes the educational, social, economical and cultural interests of students at the European level. Through its member unions, ESU represents over 11 million students in Europe. To find out more about ESU, follow us on Twitter @ESUtwt, check out or Facebook page or visit www.esu-online.org. ESU celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2012.