London: Tougher entrance criteria, limits
on work entitlements and the closure of the post study work
route are some of the changes made to the student visa system
in the UK, Home Secretary Theresa May has said.
The announcement yesterday follows a major public
consultation on the reform of Tier Four - the student entry
route to the UK of the Points Based System - after a Home
Office review revealed widespread abuse.
A sample of students studying at private institutions
showed that 26 per cent of them could not be accounted for.
May said: "International students not only
make a vital contribution to the UK economy but they also help
make our education system one of the best in the world.
"But it has become very apparent that the old student
visa regime failed to control immigration and failed to
protect legitimate students from poor quality colleges."
"The changes I am announcing today re-focus the
student route as a temporary one, available to only the
brightest and best. The new system is designed to ensure
students come for a limited period, to study not work, and
make a positive contribution while they are here."
Introducing a number of tightening measures, the
government also pledged today to develop a new entrepreneur
route for bright and innovative students who have a business
idea and want to make it work in Britain.
The other main changes are from April 2012 all
institutions wanting to sponsor students will have to be
classed as Highly Trusted Sponsors and become accredited by
statutory education inspection bodies by the end of 2012 and
the current system does not require this and allowed too many
poor quality colleges into the system.
"Those coming to study at degree level will have to
speak English at an upper intermediate (B2) level. This is a
higher that the current B1 requirement. UK Border Agency staff
will be able to refuse entry to students who cannot speak.
English without an interpreter and who therefore patently
do not meet the required minimum standards and only
postgraduate students at universities and government sponsored
students will be allowed to bring their dependants.
"We will limit the overall time that can be spent on a
student visa to three years at lower levels, as now, and five
years at higher levels," the rules said.
Theresa May added: "My aim is not to stop genuine
students coming here - it is to eliminate abuse within the
system. Our stricter accreditation process will see only first
class education providers given licences to sponsor
"I am delighted to announce that alongside our
stricter rules, we will ensure that innovative student
entrepreneurs who are creating wealth are able to stay in the
UK to pursue their ideas."
The government has committed to reforming all routes
of entry to the UK in order to bring immigration levels under
control. The student changes will work alongside the annual
limit on economic migration, and reforms to family and
settlement routes planned for later this year.