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UK colleges to lose millions due to visa changes

Independent colleges which enrol international students in the UK could each lose more than £300,000 a year by 2017 due to student visa changes, Study UK has said. The association is among six representative bodies that have signed a joint statement condemning the changes that came into force this week.

Six associations have called on Prime Minister David Cameron to "seriously consider" excluding international students from net migration figures. Photo: Flickr/Global Panorama.

“The government has provided no evidence to support the need for these changes, and no justification except that they will ’reduce net migration’”

In a survey of Study UK’s 135 members, of which 56 responded, 34 colleges said they would suffer “significant financial losses” over the next three years because of the changes.

“The result of this is to reduce the UK’s international standing, damaging our £18bn international education sector, and hitting our economy”

The changes that came into effect on Thursday 12 November include a reduction in the length of the Tier 4 visa given to students studying at most UK colleges from three to two years.

They also mean that international students at most UK colleges must return home before switching into another visa category, including the Tier 2 skilled visa most international graduates staying on in the UK to work have, Students studying with these providers can also no longer extend their visas for further study.

Together, colleges anticipate losses of £7m this academic year, rising to £11m in 2017/18.

The losses are mostly accounted for by falls in international student fees, which in some cases also includes accommodation payments

English UK, the UK Council for International Student Affairs, Exporting Education UK, the National Union of Students and the British Association of Independent Schools with International Students have all signed a statement this week saying that the changes do “nothing but discourage students from coming to the UK”.

“Forcing students to leave the UK in order to apply for their next course will fatally undermine this confidence, while causing them considerable and unnecessary upheaval and expense,” the statement charges.

The changes “stand in stark contrast to the government’s public commitment that all genuine students are welcome”, it continues.

The groups have called on Prime Minister David Cameron to uphold this commitment by “seriously considering” removing students from the net migration target and establishing a working group to review the UK’s full range of educational pathways for international students.

“The government has provided no evidence to support the need for these changes, and no justification except that they will ’reduce net migration’,” the statement reads.

It notes that 80% of the UK public do not see students as migrants, but are nevertheless “caught up in the Government’s attempts to reduce immigration”.

“The result of this is to reduce the UK’s international standing, damaging our £18bn international education sector, and hitting our economy,” it contends.

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