London: British universities fear that tighter visa rules for Indian students could hit their revenues as these students are among the highest-paying.
Not only would the British Universities loose huge fees, but they fear that these students could turn to other international varsities.
Universities in the US and Australia are the top
destinations for Indian students and the UK had recently
started catching up.
According to official figures, the direct value of
students from India and other non-European Union countries to
the UK economy is estimated at 8.5 billion pounds annually.
Home secretary Alan Johnson announced a tighter
student visa regime this week, days after Britain suspended
issuing student visas in north India, Nepal and Bangladesh,
suspecting large scale irregularities.
The new rules, which include a higher bar for
English language skills, come into effect from March third.
Students from India and elsewhere pay at least three
times more fees than British and European Union students.
However, the new rules have led to much concern in
universities that derive a substantial percentage of their
income from international students.
The new rules have been put in place amidst major
funding cuts announced recently for British universities.
Universities UK, the umbrella body representing all
British universities, said it supported moves to prevent abuse
of student visas but expressed concern about the potentially
significant impact on the provision of English language
programmes by universities and other providers.
Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK,
said: "(The) UK derives significant academic, cultural and
financial benefits from international students. In a highly
competitive market for students we must ensure we remain a
welcoming and attractive destination".
She added: "We are concerned about the proposals to
restrict English language study as the UK is a major
destination for students wishing to learn English before
studying for a degree and there is a real risk that
restrictions on reputable education institutions will make the
UK less attractive to international students."
Latest official statistics show that in 2007/08, there
were 341,790 non-UK students in higher education in the UK.
International students form 14 per cent of the
full-time student population in the UK and 43 percent at
research postgraduate level.
Around 11 percent of academic staff in British
universities are non-EU nationals while thousands of
international academic visitors come to the UK every year.
Virginia West, director of Wales International
Consortium, an umbrella body that promotes Welsh universities
abroad, said: "Our universities depend on international staff
and students in all their activities, as do universities
everywhere - research, teaching, quality, the student
experience and graduate employability etc. are all measured
She added: "The difficulty for us now is that sudden
unplanned changes by the Border Agency to the system could
affect years of hard work building brand, reputation,
partnerships and recruitment internationally".
A spokeswoman for the University of Wales Institute,
Cardiff (UWIC), which currently has students from 125
countries, said: "We are proud of our reputation for
recruiting students from all over the world, consistently
being ranked as one of the UK`s top universities for the
quality of the international student experience we offer. We
take any matter that may affect this successful international
recruitment very seriously".
Greg Walker, deputy director of Higher Education
Wales, said: "In the last 12 months, universities have seen
some sudden changes to rules on study visas and there has been
a wide variation in the interpretation of such rules in
government offices abroad. This has unduly disrupted the
application process for some legitimate and well-qualified
applicants from abroad".
Cambridge ESOL, the UK`s largest provider of English
language tests, has also warned that new visa rules may not
reduce the number of bogus students coming to the UK on