Britain Announces New Restrictions on Foreign Students

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Thu Jul 31 15:25:02 UTC 2008

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Britain Announces New Restrictions on Foreign Students

The British government published details on Wednesday of what it describes
as "strict new rules for foreign students," as part of the biggest
shake-up of the country's immigration system in nearly half a century. The
new regulations, which could go into effect as early as next year, are
intended to ensure that only bona fide students who can show proven
educational track records are able to travel to Britain on student visas,
and that those who intend to stay in the country for more than a year have
sufficient resources to support themselves. All student-visa applicants
will be fingerprinted, and students who have been allowed entry on student
visas must obtain biometric identity cards.

At the same time, the government would loosen restrictions on foreign
students' ability to work after graduation, allowing them to stay on for
up to two years. The limit is now a year. The proposed new rules will
require all institutions that recruit foreign students to have a
government-issued license, and those institutions will be asked to
shoulder greater responsibility for their international students than they
have previously.

"We will expect education providers, as the immigration sponsors of their
students, to report where the student fails to enroll or stops attending,"
the government's statement of intent says. That new reporting requirement
"will be part of an education provider's sponsor duties and will be
mandatory," the statement says. "Failure to comply with these duties means
that an education provider will risk losing their license and will no
longer be able to recruit international students."

Exposing Fake Colleges

The new system of licenses, to be issued by the UK Border Agency, will
replace Britain's Register of Education Providers, a list that was set up
four years ago in part to deal with the proliferation of bogus
institutions. Almost half of the 256 institutions on the list that were
inspected since 2005 had to be removed, the BBC reported in January. The
government says that the new license system will be "tougher" than the
registry, because "providers will need to prove that they are genuine
institutions which are audited, inspected, or accredited for education

"The tighter rules should help ensure that genuine international students
are not duped by bogus colleges," Diana Warwick, chief executive of
Universities UK, a representative organization for British university
leaders, said in a written statement welcoming the proposed changes.

Wes Streeting, president of the National Union of Students, Britain's main
student organization, also praised the limits the new rules would impose
on "on low-quality, 'bogus' colleges." "These colleges are conning
international students out of significant sums of money and undermining
the UK's international reputation for educational excellence," he said in
a written statement.

Both the student group and the university leaders' organization also
welcomed the new work provisions.

Stronger Monitoring Role

The University and College Union, Britain's largest trade union for
academics, issued a statement welcoming the government's move to crack
down on bogus institutions but warned that new rules on monitoring
students "risk forcing academic staff to police their students and thereby
damage their professional relationship with students."

In 2006 more than 300,000 foreign students from non-European Union
countries were in Britain. Each year foreign students contribute some
$5-billion in tuition fees alone to the British economy and are estimated
to bring in as much as $17-billion in total.

Mark Bickerton, director of student recruitment at London Metropolitan
University, which has London's largest foreign-student population, said
that the government's proposed changes were "timely."

Although the new system will require universities to do more to monitor
and track their foreign students, Mr. Bickerton said this would pose no
significant burden. "That's a good thing," he said. "We all need to be
kept on our toes and monitored to make sure that the students we've got
are doing what they're supposed to be doing."


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