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UK colleges: non-EU work rights to be axed; PSW squeezed

Tighter rules for the UK’s FE sector have been confirmed, with all part-time work rights for non-EU students studying at publicly funded colleges to be scrapped, while college-enrolled students will also have no possibility of applying for a work visa while in the UK, the Home Office has confirmed.

International students already find it tough to find a job and an employer happy to sponsor them. Soon, students at FE colleges will have to apply from their home country. Photo: The PIE News session at Going Global

"In blocking the route from further education to university, the government will do long-term harm to the UK"

Current part-time work rights that allow students to work up to 10 hours a week will be axed entirely, while students will be unable to extend their studies unless their college has a formal link to a university.

Study visas at FE level will also become valid a maximum of two years rather than three.

James Brokenshire, immigration minister, said: “Hard-working taxpayers who are helping to pay for publicly funded colleges expect them to be providing top-class education, not a back door to a British work visa.”

The changes are being made after Home Office officials reportedly detected early signs of increased fraud at some publicly-funded colleges and discovered immigration advisers advertising college visas as a means to work in the UK.

Brokenshire said, “Our reforms – which include introducing English language testing, removing sponsorship rights from hundreds of bogus colleges, and restricting students’ access to the jobs market – are all part of our plan to control immigration for the benefit of Britain.”

The new rules were in a Written Statement submitted by Brokenshire on 13 July. Work rights restrictions will be enforced from August, with the other changes to be implemented in the autumn.

The news is an electric shock for the UK’s FE sector which already feels beleaguered, as we reported last month.

“The sector is keen to see any evidence that it is being used as a ‘back door for bogus students”

Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said “The government risks seriously restricting the UK’s ability to attract international students”.

He pointed out that “preventing international FE students continuing to study in the UK after they have finished their studies will limit the progression of students from colleges to universities”.

“Colleges have well-established and stringent attendance monitoring systems in place to mitigate against any potential abuse and the sector is keen to see any evidence that it is being used as a ‘back door for bogus students,” he said.

“In blocking the route from further education to university, the government will do long-term harm to the UK as an international student destination and this policy needs urgent reconsideration.”

An anonymous source, speaking with The PIE News last week, indicated that changes to immigration policy are happening faster and quicker than ever before since Prime Minister, David Cameron, himself took personal charge of an immigration taskforce.

At ExEdUK, Chairman Graham Able slammed the move. “Once again the Home Office has announced new rules for international students without proper consultation or apparent concern for the devastating impact they will have on colleges and universities across the UK.”

He added, “These rules will place impossible obstacles in the path of international students hoping to progress through sixth form and FE into UK higher education, and will drive them by their thousands into the open arms of our global competitors.”

“International education is not a ‘back door’. For a host country, it’s the smartest front door in the world”

Stakeholders in other countries were quick to see that the UK’s move could aid their own education exports. One commentator in Canada tweeted, “International education is not a ‘back door’. For a host country, it’s the smartest front door in the world.”

Theresa May had previously advocated for this PSW policy in December before the plans were scrapped, reportedly at the behest of colleagues in the Conservative party worried about the impact on the export economy.

Despite the Daily Mail reporting the changes would hit all non-EU students, in fact, the government is targeting only those at FE level, which includes many diploma-level courses and pathway courses offering alternative routes to entry to UK HE.

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40 Responses to UK colleges: non-EU work rights to be axed; PSW squeezed

  1. If this move is actually made by the British government, then it reflects a political expediency, not a reaction to a real concern, it seems to me. The net result of allowing students easier pathways to a country, is to support economic development in that country and, increasingly, allow for improvements both in the host country and in the immigrant’s home country since many immigrants continue to suppor their families and their societies back in the their home country. If made, this is a step backwards rather than forward and further represents a fundamental failure in understanding what immigration achieves.

    On a related note, my home country of Canada can only benefit from this decision since our system remains more open than what is being propsed in the UK. We have loads of concerns too, but at least we allow our students to work part-time and support their lives in Canada by doing so.

  2. Having worked in South Asia both pre and post the Home office initiated “slow down” IF implemented as reported, this change would effectively eliminate most of South Asia as a source of high quality students for UK HEI’s.
    Coming at a time when China has plateaued and when many institutions are seeking diversity in their international populations for pedagogic reasons, it seems academic, cultural and economic madness…

  3. There is an element of fraud as far as course attendance is concerned. The fraud is that some proxies are attending courses on behalf of students. And genuine students are working full time cash in hand jobs. This is the truth.

  4. It’s been coming, I think this is a sympton of the obsession or paranoia about NOM net overseas migration, misleadingly describing temporaries such as students as ‘immigrants’, along with ‘high population growth’ memes….. These are nothing new as they emerged from ‘advocates’ in the USA with roots in the deep south….. who worked out years ago that you could not be publicly racist towards non-Europeans…. (won’t say anymore in case PieNews gets sued)

  5. It is very unfortunate that the UK goverment is implementing these new rules that affect Non European students.

    Those measures will only prevent that international students consider UK as a study destination.

    We as an Educational Agent truly believe that Public Colleges in the UK provides High quality education. In most the cases, further education is a path to University programs for our students that wish to finish at UK university. Do not understand why block the route from further education to university to Non European students!

  6. Pingback: UK FE brands Home Office reforms ‘unwarranted attack’ | AlphaView Global Resources

  7. Easy for competitor countries such as USA, Canada to attract talented students from all over the world. This will also lower the rankings of UK Universities due to lack of quality students taking admission sin the universities.

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