Universities UK responded today to home secretary Theresa May’s speech at the Conservative Party conference in which she said that student visa rules must be enforced and abuse of the system tackled.
Responding to the speech, Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said: “We agree with the Home Secretary that care must be taken to ensure students are genuine and that there must be mechanisms in place to ensure that individuals do not overstay. Universities take their responsibilities as sponsors very seriously, spending nearly £70 million a year on student visa compliance. Home Office research shows that levels of visa abuse in the university sector are very low.
“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. If international graduates want to extend for a period of post-graduate work experience, they have to apply for another visa.
“While genuine international students in the UK continue to be caught up in efforts to bear down on immigration, it will feed the perception internationally that the UK is closed for business and does not welcome students.
“As the Foreign Secretary suggested last month, one step the government could take would be to remove international students from their net migration target.
“International students and staff make an enormous contribution to the UK, academically, culturally and economically. Reducing the number of genuine international students would have a substantial and negative impact on towns and cities across the UK, on businesses, jobs, and on our world-class universities.
“Governments overseas are becoming increasingly aware of the value that international students bring in both the short and long term. This is why the United States, Australia, Canada, Germany, France, China and others are implementing strategies and targets to increase the number of international students going to their universities.”