Written evidence submitted by Cambridge
University Students' Union (SV20)|
1. Cambridge University Students' Union (CUSU),
the Cambridge University's Graduate Union (GU), the CUSU International
Campaign and the CUSU Women's Campaign are extremely concerned
about the Government's plans to restrict Tier 4 migration (student
route), and the effects that these could have on our current and
future international membership. This evidence outlines our main
concerns about some of the government's key proposals in this
area, and the way that we believe they will negatively affect
both the makeup of the UK's national student body and, particularly,
the students at our own institution.
- The closure of the post study work route will
have enormously damaging consequences. It would have significantly
negative effects on our ability to recruit the best international
students in the perception it creates of the UK's attitude towards
international students, in the attractiveness for the best international
students of coming to the UK to study, and in our ability to recruit
top researchers and academics over the long term.
- The closure will damage our ability to hire the
best international students for post doctoral researcher posts,
which will compromise our ability to maintain and build successful
- We will have invested considerable resources
and time in training and developing the skills of international
students, only for them to be forced to take these skills and
abilities out of the country.
- The proposal that students leave the country
to reapply for a visa before progressing to a higher course of
study will incur potentially substantial cost for the student,
for no perceivable benefit and would, if implemented, further
damage our ability to recruit effectively.
- The proposed limitations for working whilst a
student will limit our graduate students' ability not only to
use their skills at other higher education institutions, but also
potentially at their own.
- The proposals on limiting dependents' entry and
right to work seem to us unnecessary, and could further damage
our ability to recruit.
- We welcome delineation between "high risk"
and "low risk" students in principle, if such a distinction
is made on the basis of the trusted status of the institution,
rather than on the basis of nationality.
Post study work route
2. Many of our international students have expressed
worry about the government's plans to close the post study work
route in its entirety. We believe that all our graduates, whatever
their nationality, have a great deal to contribute to the
social and economic life of this country. We reject the government's
limited conception of the student visa route only existing for
the purpose of students studying here. Many of our international
students come to consider this country a home or a place that
they would like to spend a greater period of time in, and wish
to continue to contribute their skills. It would be foolish to
close the post study work visa, as we would be bringing in talented
international students, devoting considerable resources to training
them and developing their skills and abilities, only to send this
3. We also have significant worries about the
damage this will do to Cambridge University's ability to recruit
international students. This is in part an issue that is caused
by the perception of the government's plans and the message they
send regarding how welcome international students are in this
country. Successive immigration reforms have increased the perception
of the UK for potential international students as a place that
does not welcome the talents and skills that non EEC national
can bring to our universities and our workplaces. We believe that
this latest reform will dramatically and damagingly add to this
perception. There is increased competition from other countries
in the international student market, particularly from the United
States, but also increasingly from China and India. Any damage
to the perception of the UK as anything other than a country where
international students are welcome will do enormous damage to
our institution's (and the country's) ability to recruit the best
international talent and minds. The immense value that our current
competitive ability to recruit the best international students
is something which, judging by the proposals as they currently
stand, the government does not sufficiently appreciate.
4. It will also damage our ability to recruit
international students in other ways. As outlined in 2, much of
the attraction for studying at Cambridge University for the best
international students may well be the idea of completing a course
of study here and continuing to work here after completing that
course of study. In a similar way, as outlined above, this has
the potential to do great damage to our ability to recruit the
finest international students (both as an institution, but also
as a country as a whole).
5. Our ability to recruit international students
being curtailed also has negative consequences beyond the immediacy
of losing our share in the international student market. There
is a high retention rate of people who are students in Cambridge
(or in the wider higher education sector) continuing as academics
at Cambridge (or in the wider higher education sector). If we,
in the long term, lose our current share of the best international
students, we run a very serious risk of losing our share of the
best international (or of international origin) academics. And
this would be enormously damaging to the quality of education
and research that Cambridge, or the wider higher education sector,
6. One specific concern we have is regarding
international PhD students who, having completed their PhD, remain
on for post doctoral research (as "post-docs"). They
move from being students to employees, but do not have the same
employment status as permanent or tenured academic staff. They
are often continuing extremely specialised research in the area
that they completed their PhD in. Though post doctoral researchers
do not have the same level of qualifications as the permanent
academics we recruit, they are often essential to the success
of the entire research group. If we are to maintain our research
at a world leading level and maintain the vibrancy of our research
community, we must make provision for universities being able
to recruit international students to these posts. We are extremely
concerned that if the post study work route is closed, we will
not be able to recruit the best individuals to these positions.
7. The effect that this will have on the graduate
and post-doctoral communities in Cambridge is particularly problematic
if we are to maintain a world-leading research community. Currently,
Cambridge is able to recruit the world's leading researchers.
Part of our appeal is that researchers can pick students to become
(as post-docs) part of a research group, a decision that they
are uniquely placed to make. We worry that the closure of the
post study work route will limit researchers' ability to do this,
and thus increase the likelihood that top researchers will choose
to work in countries where such free selection is possible.
Progressing through different courses
8. The consultation documents seems to suggest
that students, upon completing one course, should be required
to leave the UK and reapply for another visa when embarking on
a higher course is a particularly problematic one. The apparent
reasoning behind this, that this would mark the fact that their
initial visa has expired, seems to us to be completely arbitrary
and pointless. If a student has an offer for a higher level course
at degree level or above, that student should not be required
to go through a laborious bureaucratic mechanism to gain a visa
that the government already accepts the student is entitled to.
This would incur potentially large costs for the student for no
9. We also have recruitment concerns relating
to this proposal. When deciding which country to pursue postgraduate
study in after completing a degree, the best international students
can often have different promised levels of financial support
from different countries (and often the best packages of international
support are offered from other countries, such as America). We
believe that introducing this proposal would provide further disincentives
for those international students who we have recruited remaining
in the UK higher education system for postgraduate study.
Working whilst studying
10. The proposals suggest that international
students will, during the week, only be allowed to work for their
own institution. PhD students often work for higher education
institutions (teaching seminars, tutorials and lectures) other
than their own, and under any proposals, we would be very concerned
that this valuable opportunity for inter-institutional collaboration
could be made illegal. We also have more general concerns for
the planned restrictions on international students' ability to
work, as they unfairly discriminate between UK and international
11. Many of our current Master's students (the
majority of whom follow one year courses) may bring families with
them when they are studying at Cambridge. Under the current proposals,
they would be prevented from bringing any dependents with them.
Not only would this damage our ability to recruit, but it also
seems an unnecessary restriction in general. We question the rationale
behind requiring those who are here for a twelve month period
or less not be accompanied by their families.
12. Similarly, we are concerned that for courses
that last over 12 months, international students will be able
to bring their dependents but their dependents will not be permitted
to work (unless they qualify under Tiers 1 or 2 in their own right).
This also seems to be an unnecessary restriction, and would damage
our ability to recruit the best international students, who we
believe would be put off studying in this country if restrictions
were imposed about whether their dependents could work or not.
Low Risk and High Risk Students
13. We welcome, in principle, the proposal to
differentiate between "high risk" and "low risk"
students on the basis of whether the institution they are applying
to is a Highly Trusted Sponsor, as to the evidential requirements
they will have to meet for visa purposes. Currently, the difficulty
of obtaining a visa is an enormous cause of concern for many of
our international students, and we would be encouraged by an attempt
to address that.
14. However, we would be more concerned if the
differentiation between "high risk" and "low risk"
students was on the basis of nationality. Our international student
body comes from all over the world, and we believe it would be
in principle very difficult to justify holding them to different
evidential requirements on the basis of what country they are
from. It would also be, in practice, problematic to institute
a system which discriminated between nationalities in such a way.
15. We find the government's current proposals
deeply worrying and damaging, both to our own institution, but
also to the wider higher education and further education sector.
It would be severely harmful to our own and the country's ability
to recruit the best international students, would unfairly penalise
international students, in many different ways, who we have trained
and who wish to contribute to our economy and our society, and
would damage our ability to build and maintain successful, world
leading research communities. We urge the Home Affairs Select
Committee to incorporate the concerns we have raised in its report
to the government on these proposals.