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Visa u-turn could mean £9 million for UK ELT

New immigration rules announced  this month by UK Immigration Minister Mark Harper could boost the English language teaching industry by up to £9 million per year, based on estimates of potential business that had been turned away by a cross-section of English UK members.

"Even if the figures in percentages sound low, it’s still quite a lot of money"

A survey conducted of roughly 10% of English UK’s 470 member base at the beginning of the year showed that almost half of them were losing between 10% and 70% of total business by turning away students on visitor visas who were ineligible to study.

Coming into effect in October, the new immigration rules will now make it possible for visitors to come to the UK on a business, general or family visitor visas and to enrol on an English language course of up to 30 days.

Two centres in Oxford and London reported that they had to turn away 150 students with visitor visas in a six-month period.

Almost half of members were losing between 10% and 70% of total business

“Even if the figures in percentages sound low, it’s still quite a lot of money,” said one anonymous respondent. “If we estimate that the 50 people would have spent £2000 each, then it’s £100,000. Our Executive Centre had to turn down one single booking of £12,000.”

English UK carried out the survey to highlight the harm to the industry. Tony Millns, Chief Executive, observed, “Financially [the survey findings] are very significant because if (for the sake of argument) you have 7 students in a class, the marginal cost of one more is very marginal indeed, but the fees go straight to the bottom line.”

The change will lift a huge barrier for those that come to the UK on a Business Visitor Visa (BVV) to conduct business but also want to complete a business English course. Fees range between £200 to £2,000 a week.

Business schools and universities that offer short business courses or modules also stand to benefit from the u-turn. One university reported 1,000 students were affected, most of whom were doing company-sponsored programmes.

Another survey respondent said, “The loss [our school previously suffered because of these rules] totalled many tens of thousands of pounds and resulted in very disgruntled visitors to this country who simply cannot understand this rule.”

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