Critics argue tighter immigration laws are hurting UK universities

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09 February 2012


A former UK education minister claims that stricter immigration rules are harming UK universities because they are missing out on students from India. Labour's former education minister Baroness Blackstone has stated her concerns in a debate in the House of Lords; She said that this could be bad for universities who rely on funding from foreign students.

She said the UK risked putting itself in a "very unfortunate position" when it came to attracting overseas students.

"Some bona fide institutions - universities - have lost as many as 20% of their overseas students, particularly from India," said Blackstone. "The restrictions on employment when graduating will put us in a very unfortunate position compared to our main competitors the United States and Australia, which have much more generous arrangements for students who wish to work for a temporary period when they graduate."

Labour's Viscount Hanworth, a professor at Leicester University, agreed with Blackstone, stating it was "inappropriate" to treat students along with other immigrants.

"The measures designed to combat bogus institutions are also having a severe effect on reputable institutions in the higher education sector. Under normal circumstances, without the impediments created by the government, their numbers would be expected to follow a steeply upward trend which would be highly profitable for the UK," he added.

However, UK Home Office minister Lord Henley argued that the latest figures show a 13 percent increase in university applications from students from outside the European Union. But Henley agreed that there had been a fall in applicants from India and an increase from other areas of the world like Australia and New Zealand.

"It might be that there are some particular institutions that have lost out but we have seen proportionate increases elsewhere, [including] Australasia where there has been an increase of some 20 per cent and Hong Kong 37 per cent."

UK immigration just announced new measures to enable foreign students who have shown entrepreneurial flair while completing their UK university courses to remain in the UK following graduation. However, in practice very few people will qualify for the new Tier 1 Post Study Entrepreneur Visa.

The new measures were set up to address the criticism that was received following the decision to close the post-study work visa route. The Tier 1 Post-study Work Visa, which allows graduates to stay in the UK for two years after the end of their course to find a job, will no longer be available from April 2012.

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