Non-EU students’ influx prompts UK visa review

The number of non-EU students entering Britain increased by 75,000 last year.

London: Prime Minister David Cameron`s government has launched a review of the student visa system after latest official figures revealed that the number of Indian and other non-European Union students entering Britain increased by 75,000 last year.

One of the new measures likely to be announced by Immigration Minister Damian Green following the review is the introduction of a bond, whose amount would be refunded when students return to their countries of origin on completion of their courses of study in Britain.

Home Office figures show the level of non-EU students coming to Britain increased by more than 75,000 to about 300,000 in the 12 months to March 2010, despite the previous Labour government introducing the points-based student visa system.

The figures show that 313,011 non-EU students were granted visas in the 12 months up to March, and they brought with them 31,385 dependents. The figure compares with 235,295 students and 24,780 dependents the previous year.

Green said a "thorough evaluation" of the system would be held to try to minimise abuse.

Student visas had been temporarily suspended in February 2010 in north India following a large increase in the number of applications for student visas.

Green said: "We are committed to attracting the brightest and the best to the UK, and welcome legitimate students coming here for study. However, in the past there has been significant abuse of the student route, and we need to ensure that every student who comes to the UK is genuine".

He added: "I am undertaking a thorough evaluation of the student system over the coming weeks and months and I will introduce new measures to minimise abuse and tighten the system further."

Many non-EU students enrol on legitimate degrees, with universities increasingly seeing them as a lucrative source of income at a time of cuts to higher education budgets.

International students are a source of major revenue because they pay three times higher fees than students from the UK and the European Union.

Non-EU students rose steadily under the Labour governments, but last year`s increase was thought to have been the largest single rise on record.

Under the points-based immigration system, students are required to have 40 points to come to Britain. Applicants receive 30 points for holding a course offer from a college or university, and 10 points for proving they can pay the fees and support themselves while in the country.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of the campaign group Migrationwatch, said: "There is growing evidence that the new points-based system has provided a back door to Britain for bogus students."


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