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    Changes in student visas planned

    by Rumbold
    6th September, 2010 at 10:07 am    

    Damien Green, the immigration minister, is going to say in a speech later on today that there will be more a focus on student visas. Most discussions previously have tended to revolve around the immigration system letting too many people in, but one of the major immigration issues is when people overstay on their visas. Mr. Green is also going to question whether the students who are issued with visas are the ‘right’ ones for Britain, as only half of student visas are issued for students going to university:

    The Home Office study tracked non-EU migrants who came to the UK in 2004. The largest group - some 185,000 people - were students, and 21% were still in the country five years later… [The] Office for National Statistics figures released last month showed net migration to the UK increased by 33,000 to 196,000 in 2009. The number of visas issued to students went up by 35% to 362,015. Mr Green said the figures were proof the coalition government had inherited an immigration system “largely out of control”.

    Mr. Green is wrong to characterise the system as ‘largely out of control’, which is an exaggeration. He is right though to tackle the student issue, as plenty of students come here not only to study, but to (illegally) work long hours as well. This system is facilitated by agents in their native countries, who promise the potential students good, well-paying jobs once they come to Britain, which isn’t the reality. Southall has been hit particularly badly, with over a hundred homeless Punjabis, many of whom who came here on student visas, not getting the jobs they were promised. Tightening the system should help stop, or at least minimise, situations like this.

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    Reactions: Twitter, blogs
    1. sunny hundal

      Blogged: : Changes in student visas planned http://bit.ly/bVCEEP

    2. Peter Williams

      RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : Changes in student visas planned http://bit.ly/bVCEEP <- back to court for the UK ELT industry? #tefl #efl #elt

    3. Sophia R. Matheson

      Pickled Politics » Changes in student visas planned: Damien Green, the immigration minister, is going to say in a … http://bit.ly/cdy7Aq

    4. Thomas Byrne

      @joshuwahwah @duncanstott For a more sensible view: http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/9993

    1. Japglish — on 6th September, 2010 at 10:35 am  

      The issue here has to be handled sensitively and previous attempts have failed. The main impact is felt upon the English Language Teaching business which employs thousands of people and legitimately creates around 1.5 billion GBP for the UK economy. Courses are sold outside the UK by the government itself (or at least though proxies like the British Council). Alan Johnson’s efforts to rein in student numbers were challenged in the High Court by the UK’s ELT industry and beaten. The issue at stake for the industry is at what level students should be allowed to enter the UK to study on longer courses. The Home Office had argued that a level of Intermediate would be necessary to study on longer term courses - the industry believed that if students had this level of English, they would not need a course lasting six months or longer. The level the government was setting was purely arbitrary and they little understood the educational issues involved. Lower level students are those who best fit and benefit from these types of courses. I appreciate that there have been scam operations posing as schools to provide visas to potential immigrants. It may also be the case that a percentage of these students, often after paying through the nose for UK education at several levels, are still in the country 5 years later and are economically active. There is no doubt that the industry needs tighter regulation, not just in terms of student numbers but also in terms of conditions of service for employees. But, while the attacks on the sector will undoubtedly continue since it’s a soft target for government, 99.99 % of all teaching operations are wholly legitimate, do an excellent job in promoting UK PLC and are staffed by dedicated, highly skilled and often under-paid employees. Considerable export income is earned and students. Picking it off as an easy target will have long term consequences for education exports outside this country. And ultimately it’s a proxy - large scale immigration is not coming from outside the EU but from inside.

    2. Kismet Hardy — on 6th September, 2010 at 11:01 am  

      Ah the tories. Still picking on students when they’re not picking on single mothers I see. Students, eh? They come over here, don’t take our jobs cos students don’t work, then what are we left with? Educated foreigners. And if foreigners are educated, they might not go to call centres in bangalore, and who will take our jobs then?

    3. douglas clark — on 6th September, 2010 at 11:10 am  


      He is right though to tackle the student issue, as plenty of students come here not only to study, but to (illegally) work long hours as well.

      Why is it illegal?

      You are the libertarian around here, my friend.

      It seems to me that working for a living is a basic human right. Which ought to be independent of jurisdiction. In the sense that no state should be allowed to stop you from earning a living. That would be criminal.

      It also seems to me that asylum seekers should be allowed to work too. But that would be for another arguement.

    4. MaidMarian — on 6th September, 2010 at 12:03 pm  

      I’ll tell you what the problem is here Rumbold. Student visas are, I suspect, seen as one of the very few routes where coming to the UK is a possibility. Now, that may be a good thing or a bad thing, but it is predicating the whole thing on motive - that is the motivation to be a genuine student.

      It is not the border agency’s fault if they are lied to. On the reverse though, the educational establishment (and Japglish demonstrates this well) has tended to see immigration as an entitlement that should exist for the convenience of the education sector. They need to be taken on on this and be in no doubt they are powerful lobbies.

      Right now, policy on students could be summarised thus:

      “pay high fees to any UK university, pass some exams set at a level that 40% of the UK population could pass and that is a route to permanent immigration”

      I suppose it is like joining a trade union. Some join because they want a representative body to campaign on their behalf, others might join because of say discounts in a shop. A person who joins the union to get a discount is not doing anything dishonest. A discount is simply one of the things that comes with membership.

      Likewise, some students come to the University of Hertfordshire because they want to be exposed to the academic powerhouse that is Hatfield, but others come because a degree certificate from Hertfordshire can also carry the right to a UK work permit.

      You need 75 points to get migration. A bachelors’ degree is worth 30 points, being aged under 30 is worth 20 points and spending a year in the UK is worth 5 points so one needs 20 points from earnings. Most graduates will start with a post study tier 1 visa and if they can earn £23,000 in a year on that (and if the job doesn’t make this up, the family can top it up by appointing them the UK rep for a business back home), they get their 20 points and can stay for ever.

      The problem is legislating for motive and powerful interest groups in education who will defend their high fees to the hilt. And, of course the people who lose out are the genuine students.

      What Green should do is say that someone who studies in the UK for X years should then have to leave the country and not come back for X years (unless otherwise entitled). This is how doctor work permits worked not all that long ago. But the education lobby will scream blue murder and tell us all that it would collapse the economy.

    5. sofia — on 6th September, 2010 at 12:20 pm  

      Ugh @ above post…I need to tell all my foreign doctor mates and those who contribute to our economy to bugger off home because we don’t need their skills.

    6. RezaV — on 6th September, 2010 at 12:46 pm  

      “Mr. Green is wrong to characterise the system as ‘largely out of control’, which is an exaggeration.”

      I don’t think that is an exaggeration at all. Considering the following, I’d go as far as to suggest that it’s an understatement:

      “In the last three months of last year, there were 13,500 applications from northern India alone, compared with 1,800 in the same period of 2008.”


      The issue here is where the 21% of overstaying overseas ‘students’ originate from and what they were studying.

      I strongly suspect that most of them will hail from the Indian Subcontinent, Sub Saharan Africa and the Middle East.

      People, particularly British ethnic South Asians, Africans and people from Middle East are being really disingenuous about this. We all know that student visas are, in very many cases, an illegal immigration scam. I certainly know a number of (pretend) Iranians who have used the method to settle here and I’ve been familiar with this for decades.


      “Why is it illegal?”

      Because it’s against the bloody law!

      However much competitively altruistic liberals like you and the nepotistic South Asians on this site want for all border controls to be abolished and give anyone the right to settle and work here, this is a democracy. The vast majority of the British people (of all ethnic back grounds) don’t want it and most of those have never wanted it.

      Imposing mass, and in particular third world, immigration on an unwilling society, supporting widespread law breaking and stymieing any attempts by government to address the will of the British people isn’t only anti-Democratic. It’s fucking fascism!

    7. Japglish — on 6th September, 2010 at 1:01 pm  

      Bizarre logic:

      “the educational establishment (and Japglish demonstrates this well) has tended to see immigration as an entitlement that should exist for the convenience of the education sector.”

      No. The British Education sector is regarded as a quality product abroad and therefore earns the UK a considerable amount of export revenue which is usually funnelled straight back into universities and colleges to subsidise the education of home students. English language teaching facilitates this. It’s a legitimate source of revenue and trust me, if the UK doesn’t want it, there are plenty of countries queuing up behind us to get their hands on it. We need to be careful that there we are not developing a message which might well be seen as racist when viewed from abroad.

      Secondly, if the UK “educational establishment” manages to educate foreign citizens to a high level of skill and those citizens then wish to use those skills in the UK, are we REALLY the losers or the poorer for it? The contribution to our economy must be enormous.

      Who are these other “non-genuine” students? How many are there? Who decides whether they are genuine or not?

      Third, as I argued above, the debate is really a proxy: “Where are all these Eastern Europeans coming from then”, asks voice-of-the-people Gillian Duffy. Not “where are all these Indian/Japanese/Taiwanese/Russian/Middle Eastern students coming from then?”. Both governments have chosen to hammer the latter group because they are low hanging fruit and provide a smokescreen of legitimacy. Dealing with the much, much larger groups of European migrants is not on the agenda. Yet strains on housing services, wage levels and unemployment would appear to be a consequence of this migration, NOT educational provision. The sad consequence is the destruction of an export industry for negligible political gain.

    8. MaidMarian — on 6th September, 2010 at 1:02 pm  

      Sofia - ‘Ugh @ above post…I need to tell all my foreign doctor mates and those who contribute to our economy to bugger off home because we don’t need their skills.’

      With respect, you highlight the problem that was brought into sharp relief by the MMC debacle, as characterised by the subsequent Tooke report. Foreign doctors have a terrible sense of entitlement stemming from 1986 reforms that exempted them from work permits. This was sold as the NHS helping the world - it was infact a Thatcher cut to medical education budgets.

      Under MMC there were 32,000 applicants for a total of 17,000 juior doctor jobs, a surplus of 15,000. Admittedly there were large variations by specialty. I would hazard a wager that when your foreign doctor mates talk about job shortages they actually mean, ‘shortages of jobs in specialties where there is lucrative private practice.’ There may well be a shortage of skilled niche consultants. That is global and the immigration system does not cope well with them, I do not question that.

      It’s just that junior doctors are not in short supply by any stretch of the imagination. I believe that we currently have a surplus of heart surgeons of about 25 CCTs - all trained at vast expense to the public purse.

      The sentence, ‘I am a doctor,’ is not and should not be a work permit exemption. Unless your mates have a different interpretation of Tooke?

    9. Vikrant — on 6th September, 2010 at 1:09 pm  

      and Cameron went to India shilling our universities innit? Why can’t we just have something like F-1 and I-20 in the US which still attracts the most number of foreign students. I mean rather than having a random cut off number, cant they distinguish between fellers wanting to study advanced degrees at LSE and the ones who going to “hotel management” colleges in Jersey?

    10. MaidMarian — on 6th September, 2010 at 1:32 pm  

      Japglish – ‘There is money to be made’ may be an argument the education sector respects, it’s just that that has to be balanced against that nasty, wider political scene. Indeed, how dare Gillian Duffy have a view? There may well be money to be made by simply selling visas, but I would not as such think that is a good idea. If student visas are being abused, the fact that some people are making money as a corollary does not negate the problem. And as for that snide remark about racists….I can not help but notice that the perception of racism does not seem to have made the numbers of applications go down. Could it be that you are dropping the R-bomb as a cover and as a backdoor way of asserting victimhood? Or are you saying that British people treat students differently according to skin colour, if so come out and say it rather than the meely-mouthed nonsense you put up here.

      You ask who non-genuine students are. The people who have either 1) overstayed their visa or 2) don’t attend the course. It may well be that people who come on student visas become skilled, it’s just that in case you missed it there are 2m unemployed, and we have a vile Coalition that has set an unemployment target about double that.

      You then, rather nastily, try to turn this on European migrants – of whom my wife is one. Those European citizens are in the country legally, hence they are not abusing student visas, that is kind of the point of the article. This is not a question of LEGAL immigration (however much you might want it to be) but abuses of the system.

      It may well be that the education industry wants in infinite supply of high-paying students through the visa system, that is no reason to treat education as a special case.

    11. sofia — on 6th September, 2010 at 1:43 pm  

      Maidmarian- I don’t know anything about tooke so can’t comment until I read up on it.
      As for doctor comment, I was rather highlighting that not all people who stay on after their studies are actually bad for this country. As for junior doctors, I’m sure I heard in the news the other day that junior doctors are dropping out in large numbers or going abroad..I know countless other people who have studied here and then gone on to find jobs in other sectors. Nothing wrong with that. Instead on focusing on the immigration, why not look at the bogus schools and colleges as well as the dodgy solicitors. I’m sure that would help cut numbers of bogus applicants.

    12. sofia — on 6th September, 2010 at 1:44 pm  

      and maidmarian you should stop going on about victim hood..you’ve used that one on me before and it’s bloody annoying and a bit of a boring argument

    13. MaidMarian — on 6th September, 2010 at 1:57 pm  

      Sofia - Here you go, see 4.4.5 on page 68


      That thing about a mass-exodous of doctors is something that the BMA puts out annually. If you were to ask them to break it down by specialty the picture would be very different.

      And as for victimhood, no - I’m sorry but arguments predicated on victimhood do not pass muster. I will happily debate the merits of visas for students - it’s just that using identity arguments to shoehorn in agendas detracts from those arguments.

    14. Japglish — on 6th September, 2010 at 2:00 pm  

      MaidMarian - Thanks for the answer. Hard to know how to respond. I certainly DO think that the government’s response is both racist and politically motivated and ultimately futile but am not seeking to imply that you are deploying arguments in the same way.

      Secondly, I have worked in plenty of language schools in the UK and abroad. In all of those schools, registers were taken and students expelled who were not attending. This also meant losing their visa status.

      Thirdly, the number of immigrants entering the UK via the educational visa route, from the statistics given above would appear to be around 37,000 (20% of 185,000) in 2004 and there are no figures given for later years. There is no claim in the statistics that these 37,000 are ILLEGAL immigrants i.e. outstaying their welcome on student visas. How many are on totally legitimate visas granted after their studies? My guess is most. So the question of legality which you raise to differentiate from Eastern European immigration would appear to be at least partially a red herring.

      I am not condemning Eastern European migration - quite the opposite, it has added much to our country and I welcome it. But there is no doubt that the overwhelming majority of migrants to the UK are coming through this route and NOT education. I would argue (like Ed Balls) that European migration has exerted a downward pressure on salaries and an upward pressure on housing stocks and services. This is the heart of the migration problem. I am not convinced that those who enter for educational purposes, likely to be more skilled, have had the same impact. But I might be wrong.

      Would you mind if I returned to my original question to you?

      How MANY “non-genuine” students are there?

    15. sofia — on 6th September, 2010 at 2:02 pm  

      Maidmarian - that is your opinion..I don’t agree with your definition of shoehorning..in my opinion you;re sticking in victimhood when you have no other argument

    16. Kismet Hardy — on 6th September, 2010 at 2:19 pm  

      I’m not sure I got this right. I can totally understand people (racists or otherwise) complaining when foreigners come over and scrounge or take away working class jobs, but to get knickers-twisted over people from anywhere in the world who come to be educated so they can be doctors and professors and save your life and advance our understanding of the universe? Is that really a problem? We’re not talking about plumbing, this is rocket science

    17. MaidMarian — on 6th September, 2010 at 2:42 pm  

      Kismet Hardy -

      Doctors and professors are not likely to be on student visas.

      Medical students (as opposed to qualified doctors), possibly, but as above, junior doctors are not in short supply.

    18. Kismet Hardy — on 6th September, 2010 at 2:52 pm  

      Oh. Ok. I knew I didn’t get it. But like, don’t a lot of people from India and places like that come over to UK to study medicine? They used to at my uni. I used to steal their curries at munchies hour. Drove them up the wall but they were really polite about referring me to the dean

    19. sofia — on 6th September, 2010 at 3:24 pm  


    20. Rumbold — on 6th September, 2010 at 3:38 pm  


      People on student visas are limited with regards to work, which seems sensible, as it is a measure to prevent people coming over here to work whilst pretending to be students.

      Vikrant’s idea isn’t a bad one, as it would ensure that the best and the brightest weren’t put off by a arbitary cap.


      How MANY “non-genuine” students are there?

      Well, the certainly are a fair few, as shown by the situation in Southall.

    21. MaidMarian — on 6th September, 2010 at 3:51 pm  

      Kismet Hardy -

      Yes, historically a lot of doctors have come from India, and it is like that for a reason. The numbers of Indian doctors you see on wards around the world is not a comment on the quality of Indian medical education/training. It is because India wildly, wildly overproduces doctors, to the extent that it makes planning for doctor numbers problematic around the world. Indian universities are very polarised. Many good people can not get the excellent places at AIIMS or University of Chandigarh and have the choice of either education overseas or a second, third, or worse class education in India. This, of course, has the effect of squeezing out local graduates and making countries reliant on overseas doctors – not a good thing.

      Sofia’s link is interesting in that it names specialties – A & E is a classic (though I am surprised to see pediatrics on there, I admit). But it is from the perspective of BAPIO, a pressure group, and a Deanery who are under pressure because for far too long their STCs relied on Indians to fill gaps. Note also how the doctor responsible for training takes a shot at the EWTD, a piece of legislation that the rest of Europe seems OK with.

      Note also in Sofia’s link the sentence, ‘British doctors didn’t want to go and in specialities that the British doctors didn’t want to take up.’ The UK doctors who complain about a lack of training posts would do well to dwell on that. It would be telling to ask the Welsh Deanery what the ratio of applicants to posts was in cardiology or respiratory medicine. In London at one point it was about 40 to one.

      As Tooke showed, junior doctor in and of itself is not a shortage profession.

    22. Japglish — on 6th September, 2010 at 4:34 pm  

      Rumbold - I am not suggesting that there are NO cases but the legislation which was under consideration by the last government would have resulted in the loss of hundreds of jobs and a considerable amount of export income for the country. Before we go down that road again, and in order to avoid the accusation that this is simply political guesturism and opportunism of the worst kind, I think it is right for cast iron data to back up the case.

      There are, without a doubt, scam operations and there ARE victims and the results, as you have shown, can be tragic. But I have argued above that the answer to this is tighter regulation and monitoring of the sector rather than simply hacking away at a huge swathe of it.

      Income does not justify everything, MaidMarian is right, and the loss of jobs of people who work in that sector may well be a price worth paying if this is, indeed, the main cause of public disquiet over immigration. It’s just that I suspect that it isn’t . It may well, however, be politically convenient for some to argue that it is.

    23. damon — on 6th September, 2010 at 4:50 pm  

      Is Aaron Porter, president of the National Union of Students, talking nonsense though?

      To suggest that the levels of those coming to the UK to study is too high is a politically motivated misinterpretation of the huge contribution which international students make to our colleges, universities and the economy.

      You can’t just say that if you don’t really back it up further. Why isn’t it a governments decision on what kinds of overseas student a country lets in?
      It said in the Times today that there were 307,000 visas given to overseas students in the 12 months before June. Up from 186,000 in 2004.
      These are such large figures that there is bound to be some wanting to manage total numbers and types of students coming. Why racism was mentioned on this thread already I have no idea.

      Damien Green talks of wanting to attract ”the brightest and the best” - which is perhaps elitist, and he complains that 130,000 were not at degree level and that 90,000 were not even at further education colleges.

      That there are people and colleges who are willing to take the money of overseas students is not grounds enough for giving out so many visas - is it?

    24. Cauldron — on 6th September, 2010 at 9:24 pm  

      I suspect that the 80/20 rule applies here and that the majority of overstayers come from a small group of countries. Why not just cut the quota for these countries while leaving students from well-behaved countries alone?

    25. douglas clark — on 6th September, 2010 at 9:52 pm  

      Rumbold @ 20,

      Yeah, well.

      People on student visas are limited with regards to work, which seems sensible, as it is a measure to prevent people coming over here to work whilst pretending to be students.

      So, if they need money, then they are forced into the black economy? What, exactly, is sensible about that? Cutting off noses to spite faces comes to mind…

    26. Don — on 6th September, 2010 at 10:32 pm  

      To an extent, Douglas is right. If you are a student, overseas or not, and student-skint, and your flatmate says, ‘The landlord wants the flat next door given a quick paint job. Two days work, £100 each.’ Of course you would take it, regardless of the technical legality.

      OK, legality. But you would.

      And the bar jobs, and the bits of tree-clearing and minor demolition. You don’t declare that stuff.

      I don’t see how any political philosophy can make working a crime.

    27. Rumbold — on 7th September, 2010 at 3:27 pm  


      Well, the whole point of granting student visas is that they are here to study, not to work full time. Why not just issue general visas then to whoever wants to work?

    28. joe90 — on 8th September, 2010 at 10:27 pm  

      Basically the government is saying it doesn’t want brown colored students coming to the UK.

    29. damon — on 9th September, 2010 at 1:48 am  

      Basically the government is saying it doesn’t want brown colored students coming to the UK.

      Absolute rubbish.

    30. joe90 — on 9th September, 2010 at 11:02 pm  


      your opinion and you entitled to it just as i am to mine!

    31. persephone — on 9th September, 2010 at 11:31 pm  

      Why should it be based on a cut off or down cutting down immigration. It should be based on cherry picking the best talent for growth/future success. For eg I’d want the best doctor in a life saving operation regardless of whether they were home grown or had come via a student visa.

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