Student Visas - Home Affairs Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by the University of Manchester Students' Union (SV24)


1.1  In response to the proposed changes to student visas the University of Manchester Students' Union (UMSU) surveyed international students currently studying at the University of Manchester between 20 December 2010 and 11 January 2011. Our aim was to investigate how changes in the current system of visas may have affected their choice to study in the UK and collate qualitative evidence around this issue. We particularly focused on the Tier 1 Visa as this strongly affects our students, but a general theme about changes in the immigration laws came out in the responses which negatively affects.

1.2  Section 2 outlines why, in order to maintain a competitive University system and economy, being attractive to international students is extremely important. It also lays out the benefit which having international students in our job market provides.

1.3  Section 3 lays out a sample of the findings if our survey in relation to the Tier 1 Post Study Work Visa. We have included a series of quotes to illustrate the themes which our survey pulled out.

1.4  Section 4 includes some brief responses to some of the proposals which have been made in relation to international students. We have also included an Appendix of the questions we asked in the survey.

1.5  Finally it seems important to note there is a strong feeling from the international community in the University of Manchester on this issue. In the space of three weeks in a holiday period nearly 1000 students responded to an online survey with no prize draw purely because they felt it was important their voice was heard on this issue.


2.1  International students provide Universities with a large amount of revenue which will be increasingly important in light of ongoing cuts to Higher Education. They also help home students gain global competencies which make them more competitive in the international job market. In the 2010 CBI Education and skills survey, businesses identify graduates' foreign language skills and international cultural awareness as key skills and two of the bottom four skills they are least satisfied with..

2.2  Based on the assumption that international students are an intrinsic element to the continuation of a healthy University system and UK economy. It is important for the UK to remain competitive in attracting strong international students in order to maintain its status as having some of the best Universities in the world. Therefore we surveyed students on issues which would affect their decisions to study in the UK.


3.0.1  The responses of international students show two clear trends in the reasons for why cancelling the PSW would be detrimental.

3.0.2  Firstly, on a practical level it is harder to apply for post graduate and postdoc work without a post study visa and increases the likelihood that students will apply to Universities in other countries. It is also harder for companies to employ international students as there is a reliance on the PSW as not all companies can be sponsors.

3.03  Secondly, these impracticalities have a strong impact on the perception of the UK being a bad choice for international students gaining reputation of being unwelcoming to foreign talent. It is also harder for Universities to attract the strongest international students as being able to work with a degree qualification is seen as part of a package for paying higher fees and coming to another country. This impacts the flow of future applications and in turn feeds into the first issue. Currently the market for international students is extremely competitive and areas such as visas are a strong factor in prospective students choices. In our survey 86.1% of students said that the PSV was a factor in their decision to study in the UK with 87.3% classing it as either an Important or Very Important factor.

3.0.4  Many students talk about their desire to use their experience to help improve both the British system and that of their home country. There should be no doubt that these people are future leaders and have the potential to be advocates for the UK in their chosen career paths as this Venezuelan student suggests:

3.0.5  "The opportunity of working outside my country represents not only the possibility of expand experiences as a professional together with the education already acquired but also the possibility of repaying to this country what I have got in educational experience...having the chance of working temporarily in the UK would have invaluable repercussions in my self-fulfilment both as a person and a professional."

3.0.6  This section is split into different areas of potential impact which our students identified if the PSV was removed:

  • the impact on Universities;
  • the effect on British companies;
  • the value PSV adds to the appeal of a UK University experience; and
  • recommendations of the UK.

3.1  The impact on Universities

3.1.1  38.8% of those who answered the question "were you planning to conduct research or teach in the UK?" responded "Yes" with 23.6% "Undecided". 97% of these students said that the changes to PSW would affect their decision.

3.1.2  Below are some of the responses students gave when asked how losing the PSW would affect their decision:

3.1.3  "It would make finding an academic post in a British university almost impossible" PhD in Education

3.1.4  "I am a Post Graduate student of Computer Science and had plans of taking up research in my area of study. The UK universities are a great place for academics. I was really looking forward to being able to stay here for some time and do some good work. Students like me, who are here to actually study and serve the community are the ones who will suffer if the Tier 1 PSW is cancelled." PhD Computer Science

3.1.5  "I will not consider doing my Masters or PhD in the UK in future." BSc Biomedical Sciences

3.1.6  "I was planning to work with the University for developing a new course for the new master's programme. It will be difficult to get a work sponsorship right after I finish my PhD. Post study visa would have given me the time to process and develop."

3.2  The effect on British companies

3.2.1  Currently not all British companies can be sponsors for the Tier 2 Visa and therefore the PSW is essential for them to employ talented international students, who not only bring their academic qualifications with them, but also the ability to make British companies more internationally competitive. This is particularly likely to be the case for smaller companies and those expanding, preferring to issue certificates of sponsorship to international staff at a higher level.

3.2.2  "It can potentially prevent me from accepting a full time work offer already received from a British company." MBA student

3.2.3  "Virtually no employers in my chosen field of work can sponsor a Tier 2 work permit due to their (typically) small size." BA International Business, Finance and Economics

3.2.4  "I was planning to stay in the United Kingdom, the place with the best legal system, and provide my services in betterment of the system." BA Law

3.3  The value PSW adds to the appeal of a UK University experience

3.3.1  Many students feel that although British degrees are valuable in themselves, it is the package of work experience which makes them competitive especially as often they do not view the skills gained in a degree as directly mapping across to their chosen career. There is a strong feeling amongst international students that as they have been educated in the UK they can provide valuable talent and skills to the UK economy and also their home countries. This seems like a legitimate fear as many students raised the issue that this would make them: "less competitive after going back to [their] home country" (MSc in Marketing). If this perception continues to be widespread then it will be a significant challenge for UK institutions to present themselves as competitive in relation to other countries which are offering more generous visas.

3.3.2  "The work experience here is almost as important as the Master degree I will get." MSc Marketing student

3.3.3  "One of the main reasons I chose UK for my masters was the PSW visa. I want to gain experience and apply the theoretical knowledge gained into real life situations." Msc Management of Projects

3.3.4  "My long term desire might be to go and work in high education in Rwanda but i would value at least a 2 years experience before that!" PhD Religion and Theology

3.3.5  "Would make my education incomplete since the work experience is a major part of what you would want to take away from your training in UK and hopefully apply it to make a change for the better back home." PhD Biotechnology

3.3.6  "Without this [work experience], the UK seems less attractive. It is rather appalling at the age of globalisation and attracting the best talents regardless of origin, the UK is choosing a step backward." PhD Law

3.4  Desire to recommendations the UK

3.4.1  80.2% of students said that the cancellation of PSW would significantly affect their recommendation of the UK to potential students and as we have laid out future international students are an important source of income and talent to UK Universities. Word of mouth recommendations are crucial to recruitment of international students and this reflects trends of feelings towards any changes in making it harder to become into the UK.

3.4.2  "After spending such a significant time of my life in the UK, at an age where I feel my contribution to society and my spending as a consumer is quite significant, I somewhat expect to be facilitated access to employment market in one way or another. Otherwise, it would become a case where the UK is charging very high tuition fees for international students, on a long period, without giving any advantages to students in return. Would the best and brightest students still want to come study in the UK? I'm afraid not." PhD in Business Administration

3.4.3  "I will stop recommending anybody to come and study in the UK." PhD Engineering and Physical Sciences

3.4.4  "As I see it, these measures would be a significant step backwards for the UK in every sense other than perhaps the most short-term financial considerations. This would certainly not bode well for the UK's image as a cosmopolitan nation." BA Chinese and Japanese Studies

3.4.5  "Scrapping this gives the impression that international students are not wanted in the country." MSc Advanced Chemical Process Design

3.4.6  "It disappoints me... the reputation of UK universities are going down because of these changes." BA International Business, Finance, Economics


4.1  Importance of maintaining PSW for current students

4.1.1  There was a very real concern amongst the students surveyed about whether the PSW would be cancelled for them and a feeling not only of betrayal but extreme worry about what this might mean for the future of themselves and their dependents.

4.1.2  "It will interrupt my every decisions such as looking future for my career. It will seriously hamper the academic life of my daughters . Specially we had a plan that my elder will attend her GCSE exam in 2013. I am afraid she might not be able to attend her exam if the new rules take action." PhD in Drama

4.1.3  The possibility of losing this route is "making my decision complicated and frustrating" PhD in Medicine.

4.1.4  "I would feel deceived if this act comes into place during the middle of my course."

4.1.5  "I understand that it is important to set a limit to the number of immigrants or non-EU students coming into the country. But, I believe it is very unfair to international students with the necessary credentials, promised a temporary post study visa to have a chance of finding a job in the UK after they graduate while they were applying for a study visa." MEng Engineering

4.2  Applying for another course from overseas

4.2.1  The suggestion that students would have to apply for another course from their home country was an area which does not seem to benefit either the UK or the individual students as it will be timely and costly for, individuals, Universities and the boarder agency.

On the whole the response from students was one of confusion about how this could be of a benefit for anyone and would increase the potential for strong students to apply for different countries for their PhD rather than retaining loyalty to the UK. These were some of the responses when asked how they would feel about

4.2.2  "My suggestion is: for students deciding to change course AND stay at the same institution where they initially applied, the procedure could be done from WITHIN UK. For students deciding to change course AND university, the procedure should be done overseas." PhD in Business Administration

4.2.3  "will have negative effect on the number of international students" BA Econ (Economics and politics)

4.2.4  "it is a waste of time and money and forces the students to start over again in terms of looking for housing and resettling in the UK." M.Eng Civil Engineering

4.2.5  "it will make students think twice before applying to further education in the UK." Msc Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship

4.2.6  "If this happens, I think I will go to the USA to do my PhD because both countries need a re-application." PhD Computer Science

4.3  Need to show evidence of academic progression

4.3.1  The majority of international students who responded felt this wouldn't be a problem, although it was felt that what "academic progression" was defined as would need to be clearly laid out. It should be remembered that to be accepted onto a Masters or PhD programme students have to already show clear evidence of progression.

4.3.2  Potentially this is an additional piece of admin for institutions they will have to perform for international students. It seems important that Universities should not be allowed to use this as an excuse for extra costs to international students.

4.4  Ability to work restricted to only on campus during the week

4.4.1  There were mixed feelings about this suggestion, however for those where work is necessary for them to study their concerns were similar to this student's views:

4.4.2  "There isn't enough jobs on campus. If you work off campus, organizations have some expectations from you. You won't be able to fulfil their weekday requirements so ultimately there is a large possibility for the student not getting a job off campus." PhD Textile Technology

4.4.3  There was also a feeling that the current rule of 20 hours a week allowed flexibility whilst not flooding the job market.




About You

1.  What is your stage of study?

2.  What is the name of your Faculty?

3.  What is the name of your Course/Programme?

Tier 1 Post Study Visa

1.  Without the PSWV, would you still have chosen to study in the UK?

2.  Was the Tier 1 post study visa a factor in your decision to study in the UK?

3.  How important a factor was it in your decision?

4.  Were you planning on using the Tier 1 Post study Visa after graduating?

5.  How would the cancellation of the Tier 1 Post study Visa affect your plans in the UK?

6.  Assuming the PSWV was cancelled; would this affect your recommendation of the UK to potential students?

General Questions

1.  Have you studied at another education provider in the UK (language programmes, sixth form, Undergrad etc)?

2.  Were you planning to conduct research or teach in the UK?

3.  If you answered yes or undecided to question 2, would the proposed changes affect your decision?

4.  The UK Borders Agency (UKBA) is also considering whether students should be required to leave the UK and re-apply for another course from overseas. What is your view about this proposed change?

5.  Students wishing to remain in the UK to extend their studies after having completed their initial course will have to show clear evidence of academic progression. Will this be a problem?

6.  Under the new proposals, students will only be allowed to work on campus during the week in term time. You would be allowed to work off campus during weekends and vacations. Do you perceive any difficulties with this?

7.  Remove right of dependants to work in the UK unless they get permission under Tier 2 or Tier 1. If your dependant is not allowed to work what impact would this have on you?

8.  Why are you studying in the UK?

9.  Any other comments you would like to air? Eg alternatives to the government's plans or why the government shouldn't scrap PSWV.

January 2011

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© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 25 March 2011