Written evidence submitted University
College London Union (SV41)|
UCL Union welcomes the opportunity to feed in to
the Home Affairs Select Committee Inquiry on student immigration.
UCL Union is the representative body for students at University
College London. UCL Union represents over 20,000 students; of
whom 40% are postgraduate and 30% are from 130 countries outside
The below response is framed around the questions
provided in the Home Office consultation document. Further evidence
is available through our casework records upon request.
Do you think that all students using Tier 4 (General)
category should have passed a secure English language test to
demonstrate proficiency in English language to level B2 of the
CEFR, in order to improve selectivity and to simplify the current
We suggest that a student coming to do a degree course
should be assessed solely by the Highly Trusted Sponsor as to
whether they are suitable to do the course.
The Highly Trusted Sponsor, at degree level, is concerned
with a variety of skills and attributes, including English language.
The Border Agency ought to be able to trust HTS to assess the
suitability of a particular individual.
We note that on page 9 of the UK Border Agency consultation
document it states that only 2% of the sample were found to be
non compliant. This implies that universities are well able to
assess the suitability of a student to follow and participate
in their studies.
Do you think that students from majority English-speaking
countries, those who have been awarded a qualification equivalent
to UK degree-level or above that was taught in English in a majority
English-speaking country, and those who have recently studied
in the UK as children should be exempt from any new language testing
Do you think that students wishing to study a
new course of study should be required to show evidence of progression
to study at a higher level?
A student may wish to do another course at the same
or a similar level.
A student may wish to do a short course at a lower
level to acquire a specific skill.
For instance, a skilled medical practitioner may
wish to acquire an additional skill requiring a course of study
at a level lower than their current academic qualification.
We do not think the Border Agency should determine
whether a student can be permitted to do a particular course.
This should be a matter of academic judgment.
There is already a three year time limit for courses
below degree level.
Do you think that students wanting to study a
new course should return home to apply from overseas?
In many cases there may be insufficient time between
published examination results and the start of the new course
for the majority of students to travel "home" and back
to the UK. This will particularly affect students from countries
where Entry Clearance applications are processed in a "hub"
in another country. For example, Japan's applications are processed
in the Philippines.
Additionally, for those students wishing to move
to university after completing A levels the time is less than
What changes do you think we should make to the
Tier 1 Post Study Work route?
The table on page 14 of the consultation document
shows that, with the exception of students from India, Pakistan
and Nigeria, 75% of all students had left the UK within five years
of starting their studies.
It is not clear which of those students who remain
in the UK for more than five years are working, continuing their
studies, or have switched to another immigration category.
The loss of the opportunities for students to gain
professional qualifications and work experience will make the
UK less attractive to potential university students. This will
adversely affect the ability of UK universities to attract the
best students. This is turn will tend to diminish the standing
of world class universities such as UCL.
We are aware the some UCL students see the Post Study
Work option as a part of the overall study package and use this
option as a means to recoup some of the cost of obtaining a Degree.
Without this option these students may be persuaded to seek a
degree in another country.
The Tier 2 General option is less attractive than
Tier 1 Post Study Work as it ties an individual to a specific
employer and a specific role with that employer.
Do you think that we should restrict further the
amount of work students should be allowed to undertake while studying?
The Immigration Rules refer to employment rather
than just work; further, the Immigration Rules include restrictions
on both paid and unpaid employment including voluntary work or
The opportunity to work option, including unpaid
work, can help universities "link" with their local
communities. Many international students work part-time within
their university and/or students' union. The loss of this opportunity
will tend to isolate international students. It will also prevent
them from gaining other social and employability skills. We also
believe that international students benefit from gaining experience
of British culture in our communities.
If Tier 4 international students are able to work
less, or differently, than UK/EEA/Swiss students this will create
an additional administrative burden to constantly check the status
of all students to ensure that none is working without the correct
Do you think we should make it simpler for employers
to understand the rules around student work, by limiting it to
set times, except where they are working on campus?
We fear that many employers will find the administrative
workload too great and simply discriminate against international
students. We have seen signs that some employers are asking potential
employees for documentary evidence that international students
are not able to produce as quickly as home students.
We are also aware that different programmes and institutions
have very different timetabling practices for classes which would
make it impossible to define set times when students can undertake
Do you think that the minimum ratio of study to
work placement permitted should be increased from the current
50:50 to 66:33, except where there is a statutory requirement
that the placement should exceed one-third of the total course
The phrase "work placement" is ambiguous.
Does it refer to a placement that is essentially of a work nature
with minimal assessment or does it include well supervised training
to ensure the student can implement the formal academic tuition?
For example, if a medical student spends time in a GP practice
observing how to apply medical knowledge to patient diagnosis
is this to be construed as "work" or tuition?
The Immigration Rules require a work placement must
be an assessed part of the course.
A reduction in the ratio from 50:50 to 66:33 might
adversely affect some dental, medical and Architectural courses.
For some specialist courses it may be desirable that
the work placement exceeds 50% of the course. We would argue that
Highly Trusted Sponsors should be permitted to accept international
students for any course at or above Bachelor's degree with a work
placement totalling any percentage of the course.
The experience that our advice centre has gained
in advising medical and dental students is that it can be very
difficult to determine what a "work placement" is.
Do you think that only those studying for longer
than 12 months should be permitted to bring their family members
with them to the UK?
There is no justification given for the concerns
mentioned in the consultation document about family members. The
number of family members coming to the UK is not as significant
as the consultation implies. The 30,000 members quoted will include
children as well as spouses.
There are human rights issues involved if international
students are to be treated less favourably than a comparable UK/EEA
student. Currently international students coming to the UK for
more than six months can bring family members with them. Six months
is a long time to be separated from immediate family.
The loss or interruption of family life will tend
to make the UK less attractive to potential university students.
This will adversely affect the ability of UK universities to attract
the best students. This is turn will tend to diminish the standing
of world class universities such as UCL.
Do you think that family members permitted to
accompany the student should be prohibited from working?
Currently employment is prohibited for family members
if the student's course is below degree level or if the student's
course is for less than a 12 months.
We see no reason to change these restrictions.
Do you agree that differential requirements for
high and low risk students should be adopted?
Whilst this might be acceptable if the basis of differentiation
is between Highly Trusted Sponsors and other sponsors it would
not be acceptable if nationality was used.
Do you believe that we should focus on the abuse
of documentary evidence for maintenance and/or qualifications
as the basis of differential treatment?
The solution to the real problem lies in better and
more thorough verification of documents used in Entry Clearance
Please see the next question below.
Do you believe that we should also, or alternatively
look at the sponsor's rating as a basis for differential treatment?
We think it is reasonable for the Border Agency to
place its trust in Highly Trusted Sponsors.
Perhaps the Tier 4 Sponsors' rating should be considered
first and additional verification of documentary evidence can
be done in circumstances where it is desirable.
Do you think that more should be done to raise
accreditation and inspection standards to ensure the quality of
education provision within private institutions of further and
higher education for Tier 4 purposes?
The consultation document is ambiguous about the
meaning of the phrase "private institution". If by "private"
the Border Agency means institutions that are not funded by Government
then we are not able to comment.
In the light of the proposals described in this
document, what do you think will be the main advantages/disadvantages,
including any financial impacts, to you, your business or your
Some of the proposals may make the UK less attractive
to the best of international students. This will tend to diminish
the ability of UK universities, including UCL, to attract high
calibre students. International students make an important contribution
to the cultural diversity of the overall student experience; any
further restrictions in international recruitment would have a
detrimental effect on this diversity. This, in turn, may diminish
the "world class" standing of the UK's top universities.
This, in turn, may diminish the UK's standing as
a world class nation.