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‘Students yes, overstayers no’, May tells UK HE

The UK’s Home Secretary, Theresa May, issued a stern warning to universities about students overstaying their visas during a speech on immigration today.

Theresa May speaking on immigration at Conservative Party Conference.

“We welcome students coming to study, but the fact is, too many of them are not returning home as soon as their visa runs out”

“Let me be clear about students: we welcome students coming to study, but the fact is, too many of them are not returning home as soon as their visa runs out,” she told the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. “If they have a graduate job, that’s fine. If not, they must return home.

“I don’t care what university lobbyists say: the rules must be enforced. Students yes, overstayers no, and universities must make this happen”

“So I don’t care what university lobbyists say: the rules must be enforced. Students yes, overstayers no, and universities must make this happen.”

However, international education stakeholders have questioned the suggestion that abuse is rife or that universities are not compliant with current regulations.

“I don’t think anyone would disagree with [May’s] phrase “Students yes, overstayers no’,” Dominic Scott, chief executive of the UK Council for International Student Affairs, told The PIE News.

“What was worrying, however, and in many ways very misleading, was her continued suggestion that many university students stay on illegally after their visas have expired, that universities were in some ways responsible for this and that ‘university lobbyists’ objected to the current rules being enforced,” he said.

“No-one does that: we can just see how so many of the increasingly complex regulations could so easily be reviewed and improved to huge benefit for the UK.”

May did not announce any new initiatives to curb student visa abuse, despite recent Home Office consultation over a number of proposed measures, including raising the English language requirements to study in the UK.

It has also been debating “for some time” about reducing the acceptable visa refusal rate for institutions that recruit internationally, which was lowered to 10% last year, according to Scott.

Scott said that there had been some concern that there may have been a “premature announcement” about one of these policies at the conference.

“To find that neither of those things, nor any other initiatives, were covered was in many ways a relief,” he said.

The proposals have been subject to “well-informed and correct criticism” from the sector, Alex Proudfoot, chief executive of Study UK, told The PIE News.

“This may have encouraged them to consult more widely and perhaps delay any announcement until they’ve fine-tuned the details, so as not to have a negative impact on genuine students,” he explained.

May said that the government’s clampdown on student visa abuse has led to a reduction in international students, but added that they have contributed to a doubling of net migration figures, which she said are “still too high”.

Her emphasis on visa abuse, however, may “feed the perception internationally that the UK is closed for business and does not welcome students,” commented Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK.

“One step the government could take would be to remove international students from their net migration target.”

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9 Responses to ‘Students yes, overstayers no’, May tells UK HE

  1. While the British Govt, seats on its high horse and think graduate international students from high and middle class back ground who have paid an average of 12,000 pounds a year studying in the UK are dying to remain in the UK as overstayers it’s just ridiculous. How do you graduate with a Bachelor, Masters or even PhD and then stay back in the UK with no job or legal status /rights? Does May know how horrendous it is to be an illegal immigrants in the UK,? I bet she knows, but she keeps acting like every students wants to overstay in the UK, otherwise Mrs May, may actually be out of her mind or she is just using the narrative an immigration sensitive UK would rather hear. However be that as it may,with the rise and opening up of other more hospitable study destinations in Europe, Canada, America and Australia that actually have a better understanding of what international students bring to the table, the UK will be the loser in due time.

    As once a UK student, a parent and an adviser who has helped over a thousand students to study at UK Universities, with virtually all of them now back home working, building enterprise or progressing on further studies, guess what the reply to Mrs May statement would be from future potential international students? , It’s will be “no to UK Universities, ” period! – and tell May she don’t need to worry about overstayers, Syrian, and Libyan refugees are heading her way, and once they can get into the UK they would ramp up the numbers of net migrants.

    Trust me, ones they get it, they would never get out. ENJOY BRITIAN

    In the words of Oxford VC Hamilton: “If politicians do not fully understand what a jewel they have in British higher education, they risk throwing it away”

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