Immigration Cap - Home Affairs Committee Contents

7  Students

82. The proposed cap applies only to non-EEA economic immigrants. However, a number of witnesses raised with us the fact that, to reduce overall immigration, the Government will have to make significant changes to the other two main routes of entry—students and family reunification. We intend to return to these areas in more depth when the Government brings forward specific proposals. However, we note here some of the key points made in evidence about students, since this was raised by several witnesses as a particular concern.

83. Some 51% of all non-EEA immigrants in 2008 came to the UK for formal study—23% of the total number of 538,000 gross long-term immigrants (see table 2). Professor Metcalf told us that it would be vital to review the student route in meeting the Government's target:

    You simply can't do that unless you also look at the student route. It is impossible. If you close down tiers 1 and 2, you still wouldn't get to the tens of thousands.[119]

84. Witnesses underlined that the UK's universities were a major international asset. The Campaign for Science and Engineering (CaSE) noted that four of the world's top ten universities were in the UK,[120] and the London School of Business and Finance that the UK held the second largest market share of international students after the United States.[121]

85. The Minister told us in evidence that the Government had "not come to a firm conclusion about what to do" about students, but that it intended to look at the route".[122] Our predecessor Committee in the last Parliament conducted an inquiry into abuse of the student route in the light of concerns about 'bogus' colleges, in particular English language schools. It concluded that insufficient quality assurance procedures for private educational establishments had allowed bogus colleges to bring foreign nationals—possibly tens of thousands—into the UK on fraudulently-obtained student visas. However, it considered that new arrangements for issuing student visas under the Points Based System would help combat bogus colleges. It recommended that the UK Border Agency increase the number of unannounced inspections on educational establishments, since advance notice had been given in 85% of inspections; and that the Government use the Companies Act 2006 to restrict use of the term "college" to properly accredited institutions.[123] The Minister stated that the Home Office would be closely examining the issue of bogus colleges as part of the Department's overall efforts.

86. We wrote to the Minister as part of our inquiry to ask how many bogus colleges had been closed down since our predecessors' report, the number of foreign students affected by closures of such colleges, and how many unannounced inspections had taken place. Mr Green wrote to us on 20 September that "the UK Border Agency now has a requirement that at least 50% of standard post-licence visits must be unannounced and this requirement is being met by all regional visit teams. Additionally further visits are commissioned by the Tier 4 sponsor investigations team all of which are unannounced". He told us that the licences of 214 Tier 4 sponsors had been suspended and 48 licences revoked since the Committee's report in July 2009. The number of non-EU students affected by closures or restrictions was 43,000. [124]

87. It is quite clear that, to achieve the reductions it is seeking, the Government will have to make significant changes to student immigration routes. As the Government is currently reviewing student visas it has not yet made any detailed proposals to effect such changes. We intend to return to this issue once the Government brings forward firm proposals for action. In the meantime, however, we underline the continuing importance of international students to UK educational institutions and the UK economy, and echo the conclusions drawn by our predecessor Committee, which said that efforts would be far better directed towards tackling bogus colleges and those who overstay their visas in order to seek employment, than penalising legitimate students. We also warn against constraining the activities of teaching in both the public sector and private sector, which are highly regarded internationally and make a significant contribution to the British economy.

119   Q 176 Back

120   Ev w28 Back

121   Ev w48 Back

122   Q 53 Back

123   Home Affairs Committee, Bogus Colleges, Eleventh Report of Session 2008-09, HC 595, 21 July 2009 Back

124   Ev 73  Back

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