New rules that ban non-EU students attending publicly funded colleges from working while they study will go into effect from next month. This is in line with ongoing efforts from Home Secretary Theresa May to reduce visa fraud in the UK.
James Brokenshire, the immigration minister, said that the reforms were aimed at stopping “immigration cheats” from using publicly funded colleges in the UK. The Home Office also highlighted that student visas were not intended to be used as an alternative, backdoor route into the country’s job market.
Current rules allow foreign students to work for up to 10 hours a week outside of their studies, but as of next month this will no longer be the case.
Hundreds of privately funded “bogus” colleges are likely be shut down in the process. “Hardworking taxpayers who are helping to pay for publicly funded colleges expect them to be providing top-class education, not a backdoor to a British work visa,” said Brokenshire.
The new measures include:
- The length of further education visas will be reduced from three years to two.
- College students will no longer be able to apply for a work visa after completing their studies. They will have to leave the country first.
- Unless further education students are registered at an institution with formal university links, they will not be able to extend their studies.
May defended the plans with official figures, showing that 121,000 non-EU students entered the UK in the past year but only 51,000 departed.
The reforms aim for a positive impact for Britain, but academics and business leaders have warned that the sector could be damaged if the country is denied the vital skills provided by many foreign students.
The head of employment and skills at the Institute of Directors, Seamus Nevin, said that restricting talented workers from remaining in the UK after completing their studies would “damage business and lead to a loss of important skills”.
The Association of Colleges also cautioned that the new measures could make Britain a far less attractive option for international students.
Nevin appealed for the proposals to be reconsidered, saying that it was in the interests of the education sector, local businesses and the UK’s international standing.