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UK: no let-up for student migrants, says May

Theresa May, is reportedly planning a further crackdown on international student visas, as she strives to reduce net migration figures and prevent visa overstaying.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May, who is thought to be planning further restrictions to student visas. Photo: Conservatives/Paul Toeman.

Options that may be considered include preventing universities from marketing their courses as a route to working in the UK

May is expected to instruct officials at the Home Office and newly beefed-up Department for Education to examine student visa regulations to restrict access to poor quality ‘Mickey Mouse’ courses, according to the Telegraph.

May reaffirmed her commitment to the net migration target, despite suggestions by ministers that the government may back away from the target

Other options that may be considered include preventing universities from marketing their courses as a route to working in the UK and looking at what can be further done to ensure students don’t overstay their visas.

Ensuring students return home after they complete their studies was a recurring theme in May’s tenure as Home Secretary, as demonstrated in a speech last year, when she warned that “too many [students] are not returning home as soon as their visa runs out”.

The prime minister recently reaffirmed her commitment to reducing net migration to below 100,000, despite suggestions by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Amber Rudd that the government may be backing away from the target.

And international students are unlikely to be removed from net migration targets despite calls from the sector to do so, as May is understood to have opposed the idea in her previous role as Home Secretary.

May’s call is echoed by her chief of staff, Nick Timothy, who last year said the “generosity of [the UK’s] student visa rules” make the net migration target unattainable.

He has also warned about the strain foreign students place on housing and public services, though international education bodies have argued that students contribute more to the UK’s economy than they take out.

A recent report by Exporting Education UK and Parthenon-EY predicted that immigration restrictions since 2011 will have cost the UK £9bn in actual and ‘opportunity cost’ loss by 2017, including their living costs and additional spending as well as tuition fees.

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