Student Visas - Home Affairs Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by The University of Sheffield (SV42)


1.  The University of Sheffield population comprises over 24,000 students and just under 5,000 are international students from outside the European Economic Area. The University recruits students from over 137 countries globally. Consequently, the proposed restrictions on Tier 4 migration are of paramount importance to the institution.

2.  We support measures to prevent abuse of the student immigration system. We appreciate that the government does not intend to negatively impact upon universities and that the focus of the proposed immigration changes is on sub-degree level programmes. However, we do not believe that these measures can work in isolation and are concerned about their subsequent impact on university recruitment and the student experience.

3.  International students pay full tuition fees and their fee income accounts for 12% of the University's total income. In addition, international students, and any accompanying dependants, contribute to their local economy and the internationalisation of their institution.

4.  The University of Sheffield's Union of Students has consulted the student population on the proposed immigration changes and to date, has received over 130 direct responses. The University and Union of Students are working together to address the proposed Tier 4 policy changes.

Restricting provision of certain types of courses

The impact of such policy changes on the higher education sector

The educational routes through which students come to the UK to study at degree level

5.  The majority of students at the University of Sheffield study at degree level or above; approximately 12% study at undergraduate level, 44% at Masters level and 37% on PhD programmes.

6.  However, the University of Sheffield believes that any restrictions on sub-degree programmes will directly affect international recruitment. The University has analysed the number of students entering the University and determined that at least 1 in 5 of commencing overseas students in 2010 were studying in the UK on either foundation programmes or English language programmes directly before commencing at the University. We also note that this proportion has been growing in recent years. Universities UK meanwhile estimates that across the UK as many as 46% of the sector's overseas commencements came via pathway or language programmes.

7.  As such, severely restricting the number of UK-based organisations that can offer pathways into UK higher education is, in our view, likely to lead to a decline in the numbers of students on such pathways and thus to a decline in the number of overseas students at the University.

8.  International students on language courses are permitted to enter the UK on a student visitor visa for up to 11 months. However, such students wishing to progress to degree level cannot remain in the UK to convert to a Tier 4 student visa; these students must return to their home country and apply for fresh entry clearance. There is a real risk that these students will either choose to study elsewhere in the world or be unable to return to the UK due to visa processing delays. Reliance on the student visitor route is undesirable for pre-degree language programmes.

The impact that reductions in student visas might have on the UK's standing in the world

Whether cuts in student visas would have any effect on the decision of highly qualified graduates to conduct research or take up teaching posts in the UK

9.  The proposed policy changes are likely to have a negative impact on UK higher education in general. The UK may be regarded as an unattractive study destination that neither welcomes nor values the contribution made by international students. This sentiment is expressed in the student quotes that are included in the University of Sheffield's Union of Student's submission to the Home Affairs Select Committee.

10.  The UK stands to lose both high calibre students and world class researchers and their associated projects. These are the highly skilled individuals who the higher education sector seeks to attract and who often contribute to ground breaking research in the UK, raising the UK's profile globally.

Whether the post-study route should be continued

11.  The University is extremely concerned about the potential closure of the post-study work route and its impact on international student recruitment generally, and from certain markets in particular. If the post-study work route was abolished, the UK's 'offer' to students would be far less attractive.

12.  UK work experience develops employability, gives students a competitive edge when applying for work in their home country and adds to the home student experience.

13.  If the post-study work scheme was to change, we believe it imperative that existing conditions apply to those students who are currently in the UK and those who will commence a UK degree programme in the 2011-12 academic session, to ensure that the UK's pledge of a post study work scheme is honoured.

January 2011

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