Student Visas - Home Affairs Committee Contents


Written evidence submitted by the Association of Independent Higher Education Providers (SV26)

I am writing to you in my capacity as Chair of the Association of Independent Higher Education Providers (AIHEP) to express my deep concern about the implications of the above proposals. Our Association, incorporating London School of Commerce, The University of Buckingham, Holborn College, Bellerbys College, School of Technology and Management, Greenwich School of Management and Kensington College of Business, has developed a highly successful reputation for delivering Undergraduate and Postgraduate University courses for International students in recent years—and has become a major export industry in the UK. The eight member colleges enrol some 15,000 International students from over 100 countries and the total revenue that they generate for the UK is over 250 million pounds per year. As an example, one member, London School of Commerce, which is the Associate College of the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff, has over 5,000 students from over 120 countries at its central London campuses and currently has Europe's largest MBA course, with over 2,500 students.

The proposed package of restrictions on Tier 4 Migration, as they stand, will have a profound and severe detrimental effect on this industry. These restrictions are clearly designed to reduce student numbers, and the effect will generally be indiscriminate and will deter genuine and committed students from studying in the United Kingdom. This could seriously damage a vital export industry and produce a considerable reduction in export earnings and tax revenue in the UK, as well as increasing unemployment and the demand on public spending.

I would like to point out that International students are not immigrants, in that they attend our member institutions for the period of their course of study and then are required to return to their home country. Our members have strict measures to ensure that we admit only genuine students, under the UKBA's Highly Trusted Status, and each student's progress and attendance is carefully monitored and is subject to Home Office inspection and review. Therefore, I am very concerned that measures that purport to reduce illegal immigration could, in fact, diminish or destroy a growth sector that is currently making a great contribution to the UK's prosperity and global reputation. We would, therefore, like to make some constructive suggestions that could minimize the detrimental implications of the proposals, but not damage any positive effect on reducing illegal immigration.

In particular, with regard to a number of measures proposed, we would suggest that:

  • 1.  With regard to limiting the part time work system, that students chose the UK as a study destination for a complete "whole learning" situation and a limited exposure to a work placement or employment, particularly in London, is beneficial and we suggest that this should not be abolished or restricted to weekends or campus employment but perhaps be reduced from 20 hours per week to 10-12 hours per week. Furthermore that this should only be for students who are enrolled at institutions who have the UKBA Highly Trusted Status.
  • 2.  On the Post Study Work, system, this should perhaps be restricted only to students who successfully complete a postgraduate degree, as these can make a real contribution to the economy in a highly skilled capacity and could perhaps then meet the requirements to become a Highly Skilled Migrant. This would also encourage talented undergraduates to progress on to postgraduate courses in the UK. We also propose that this be restricted to students at 'Highly Trusted Status' institutions.
  • 3.  Asking current students to return home to apply for a new visa to progress on to a new course,and limiting student visa extensions, will all have the effect of seriously discouraging genuine, highly intelligent and pro- British students from applying for courses in the United Kingdom. We would suggest that it is not a practical proposal and would prefer to continue the present system of visas being renewed in the UK, but that the number of renewals in the UK be limited to two for each student.

We have evidence that these proposals, as they stand, have already received major press coverage abroad and have been criticised by prospective students, their families and by friendly Foreign Governments, and we would suggest that our above suggested amendments would be effective in allaying some of these fears.

I am sure that the Committee understands that the AIHEP colleges represent the voice of high quality Higher Education in the UK. One of our members, the University of Buckingham is a fully recognised University and another, London School of Commerce has submitted an application for Degree Awarding powers to the Privy Council. We have a close relationship with David Willetts MP, the Minister with responsibility for Universities and we have been invited for discussions with him regarding interim solutions to the future funding crisis in higher education. We are seeking, in all current issues and particularly with regard to these proposals, a "level playing field" with the same recognition as the UK universities and the same standards being applied. We recognise that there are abuses to the Immigration regulations in both sectors and that solutions must be found that are acceptable, and are equal, in the state and private sector.

On behalf of our members, I would like to point out that your proposals,as they stand, will be welcomed by our International competitors—particularly Australia, where International Education is their third largest export industry and where International students are not included in their Immigration statistics. Apart from the economic implications for the UK, we fear for the damage that will be done to Britain's reputation abroad, in that we have always been the natural choice as the destination for future major decision makers, and future world leaders,to experience a high quality education—and this cultural and developmental experience will now probably be denied to a high proportion of prospective students.

I seriously urge the committee to review and amend these damaging proposals, as they will have a negligible effect on reducing illegal immigration, but will have a significantly adverse effect on the future success of the Association of Independent Higher Education Providers.

January 2011



 
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