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Universities UK response to The student immigration system - a consultation

11 February 2011

Universities UK is pleased to submit this formal response to the Government consultation The student immigration system. The response has been formulated following widespread and in-depth engagement across the university sector in the UK and is based on the views of our member institutions.

Universities UK strongly opposes the majority of the proposals outlined in the consultation. This position arises from our view that the proposals would have a substantial negative impact on individual universities, the wider economy and the global reputation of the UK as a destination that welcomes international students and recognises the significant contribution that they make.

In an increasingly international marketplace for students, the proposals risk putting the UK at a significant disadvantage to its global competitors and will undermine future efforts to attract the ‘brightest and best’ students to its world-renowned institutions.

The proposals will undermine the autonomy of UK universities and will extend the reach of the UK Border Agency (UKBA) into academic matters which fall well outside of its remit of migration control.

Many of the data sources used to inform and justify the proposals are inadequate and require greater scrutiny, not least the extensive use of the International Passenger Survey (IPS), which was never intended to measure net migration but is now being used as the basis of a policy to reduce it.

Whilst UK universities welcome any attempts to stamp out abuse within the student visa system, these proposals extend far beyond this simple objective, and will result in universities facing huge reductions in the recruitment of legitimate international students. This is likely to have a significantly detrimental impact, not only on university finances and regional economies, but also on the economic health of the nation.

UK universities remain committed to engaging with UKBA and the wider Home Office to work through policy changes to the student visa system to ensure that harm to higher education institutions is limited. This response contains a number of alternative proposals to those outlined by the Government in its consultation document.

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