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White Paper raises “new obstacles” for EU students

Key stakeholders in the international education sector have welcomed the publication of the UK government’s White Paper on Immigration, but have also raised concerns over what has been described as “new obstacles” –  particularly the proposed requirement of an Electronic Travel Authorisation for short-term students to enter the country.

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The government intends to introduce a requirement for visitors who do not currently need a visa to come to the UK to obtain an ETA

According to the White Paper, the government intends to introduce a requirement for visitors and transit passengers who do not currently need a visa to come to the UK to obtain an ETA as an additional security measure.

“Many of our EU young learners will simply choose to learn English in one of our European competitor nations”

“The ETA will enable us to conduct more security checks in advance of arrival, protect the border better and smooth the passage for legitimate travellers,” the document reads.

It refers to the ETA process as a “simple online system which is more light-touch than a visa requirement”.

However, chief executive of English UK Sarah Cooper raised concerns about the impact that such a requirement would have on “the 58% of our 500,000 students who are from the EU”.

“Furthermore, 53% of our students are under 18, and many of the EU teenagers are currently able to travel [to the UK] on their national identity card,” Cooper continued.

She said the new requirements seem “completely at odds” with the statement at the beginning of the Paper which states that “we should aim not to impose a visa requirement for short-term visits”.

The average length of stay of an English language student in the UK is 3.7 weeks – students studying for under 30 days will need to register for an ETA in the future.

Cooper suggested, “Many of our EU young learners will simply choose to learn English in one of our European competitor nations where they require neither permission to study nor a passport.”

She also expressed disappointment at the Paper’s apparent lack of understanding of the part that the English Language Teaching sector plays in the wider international education context.

“Those who come here as teenagers for a language holiday, or as school-leavers to improve their English, dream about studying for their degree or post-graduate qualification at a UK university. When they enter the UK education system at a young age they often form lifelong allegiances, and these changes threaten that potential,” said Cooper.

“This is a major blow to our industry and we will be making the strongest possible representations to the government to amend this part of the White Paper,” she added.

Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, Nick Hillman also voiced concerns about the new rules being applied not only on students from other European countries but also researchers and staff.

“The White Paper discusses nine areas where European students may find it harder to study and work in the UK. Almost unbelievably, the list doesn’t include the two biggest likely new barriers – changes to their fees and to their loan entitlement,” said Hillman.

“We have previously shown that the expected increase in fees for students from other European countries and an end to their fee loan entitlement could cut the number of incoming European students by more than half,” he warned.

Earlier in 2018, the government announced that EU students attending universities in England will continue to pay the same fees as home students in the first intake after Brexit in autumn 2019, and their access to support and student loans will remain unchanged.

Beyond the 2019 academic year, pending Brexit negotiations, it is not known what will happen on fees but the expectation is that standard international fees will apply.

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