Student Visas - Home Affairs Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by 1994 Group (SV46)

The 1994 Group welcomes the invitation from the Home Affairs Select Committee to submit evidence to its inquiry on the Impact of Proposed Restrictions on Tier 4 Migration. On behalf of our member institutions, we would like to highlight to the Committee our concerns with the government proposals. The 1994 Group is opposed to cuts to Tier 4 migration. Higher education is a highly valued and important export industry for the UK. According to the UUK report The impact of universities on the UK economy[65] it is one of the fastest growing sources of export earnings in Britain. Cutting international students to the UK will harm British universities and the British economy.


1.1  We find the proposal to limit cuts to certain types of courses worrying and would oppose such a measure, particularly in relation to pre-degree level courses. For 1994 Group universities, pre-degree courses—both publicly and privately provided—play a very important role as a source of income and as a recruitment tool for international students onto degree programmes.

1.2  Pathway programmes, which are a type of pre-degree level course, are designed to equip overseas students with the academic, language and cultural knowledge to study at UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). All 1994 Group institutions run pathway programmes of one type or another. International pathway programmes are not remedial offerings for below-par students but are vital routes of transition for excellent students unfamiliar with UK education. Many secondary education systems around the world are not well-aligned to UK university entry in terms of academic level, age, or annual start-point and pathway programmes over a route for genuine, hard-working and talented overseas students to adjust to the UK system.

1.3  These types of pre-degree courses constitute a critical element of international recruitment strategies at research intensive UK universities. A recent internal survey by the 1994 Group suggests that roughly 60% of students on pathway programmes at 1994 Group institutions are recruited onto degree programmes at the same institution. As an indication of their importance one of our member institutions suggests that without pathway programmes their recruitment to undergraduate programmes in particular, would be 50% or less of the current level.

1.4  Visa restrictions on pre-degree programmes would therefore have a significant impact on UK HEIs, financially and otherwise. It would significantly damage recruitment to pathway programmes, and thus the recruitment of international students to degree programmes. An entire segment of market for degree students would be lost to our competitors in the US and Australia who provide pathway programmes for international students (the latter currently reviewing its visa system to reduce the barriers presented to incoming students, following sharp decline in enrolments). It could also mean a significant increase in the marketing and recruitment burden for UK universities when they have to source and train replacement students in other ways. A number of universities and private sector partners have also made huge investment in facilities, staff and infrastructure to deliver these programmes and would see massive reductions if the entry to those courses was restricted. International pre-degree students also have an impact outside of the institutions in which they study.

1.5  If there is a desire to target the cuts to Tier 4 migration, it should be focused on providers offering poor value propositions to students with high levels of non-compliance with visa requirements instead of targeting legitimate pre-degree level courses.


2.1  The proposed UK Border Agency (UKBA) changes will have a negative impact on the higher education sector. International students are a key source of income for many HEIs without which it may not be possible to sustain the current breadth of subject provision and excellence at UK institutions.

2.2  Higher education is one of the biggest export industries in the UK Universities UK reported that "gross export earnings for the higher education sector in 2007-08 were estimated to be over £5.3 billion".[66] This figure includes an estimated £2.3 billion of personal off-campus expenditure of international students indicating that losses will also be felt by the private sectors from a reduction in international student numbers. Providers in the English Language sector will also be damaged by the proposed changes as the UK becomes a less popular destination for English Language Study.

2.3  Reducing student visas will have a number of impacts on the UK's global reputation. First, it will create the impression that the UK does not value international students. Second, competition to attract international students is high and competitors are likely to benefit. Third, international students returning to their home countries will look to the UK's good and services again in future and increase the propensity of others to do so. Fourth, restrictions in student numbers send wider negative messages about how "friendly" the UK is to international workers and visitors.


3.1  The Tier 1 Post Study Work route (T1 PSW) should be continued. The route has great significance as a recruitment tool and was originally introduced because the UK was demonstrably losing students to other countries that offered the prospect of PSW. Without the route UK universities' ability to recruit and retain international students would be affected and its removal could deter high quality international students from coming to the UK. T1 PSW offers genuine students the opportunity to contextualise their studies with UK work experience.

3.2  As T1 PSW is an important route to preserve, modifications and restrictions would be highly preferable to abolishment. Options include restrictions to employment that bears relevance to the course just completed; controls placed on the time allowed to find a job; or restricting the route to those who have studied at institutions who hold Highly Trusted Status.

3.3  Cuts in student visas will have a knock-on effect on the decisions of highly qualified graduates to conduct research or take up teaching posts in the UK. An impression that the UK is not welcoming to immigration could potentially have a deterring effect on some of the highly qualified academics UK universities need to attract in order to remain world leaders.

3.4  Tightened restrictions regarding dependents will deter students, researchers and teaching staff in favour of, other destination countries. For many PhD students—who are often mature students—it is not reasonable leaving their families for three or four years to undertake overseas study. The rules on dependents need to be reconsidered to accommodate this consistency.

3.5  International students can become the agents of active collaboration with the UK once they return to their home countries To remove their exposure and affinity with UK HEI potentially limits the range and depth of future positive collaboration for both research and teaching activities.

3.6  Additionally, the announced restrictions on Tier 1 and Tier 2 (general) routes are likely, given 1994 Group members' recent experience of the temporary limits, to place UK universities in a position where they cannot bring highly qualified graduates to the UK to take up research or teaching posts.


The benefits international students bring are essential to the vitality of the UK higher education sector. In financial terms the income these students generate for both universities and the wider economy is key and non-financially international students contribute hugely to enriching the cultural life on campus. Competition for international students is high and increasingly not only from other English-speaking countries but from HEIs in non-majority English speaking countries which are offering course-provision in English. The 1994 Group views that changes to the Tier 4 migration system which restrict this route and send wider negative signals about the UK will be detrimental to the higher education sector and by extension to the UK economy.

January 2011


The 1994 Group represents 19 of UK's leading student-focused research-intensive universities. It was established in 1994 to promote excellence in University research and teaching.

12 of the top 20 universities in the Guardian University Guide 2011 league tables published on the 8th June 2010 are 1994 Group members. In 17 major subject areas 1994 Group universities are the UK leaders achieving 1st place in their field (THE RAE subject rankings 2008). 57% of the 1994 Group's research is rated 4* "world-leading" or 3* "internationally excellent" (RAE 2008, HEFCE). 10 of the top 200 universities in the 2010-11 THE World University Rankings are 1994 Group members.

The 1994 Group represents: University of Bath, Birkbeck University of London, Durham University, University of East Anglia, University of Essex, University of Exeter, Goldsmiths University of London, Institute of Education University of London, Royal Holloway University of London, Lancaster University, University of Leicester, Loughborough University, Queen Mary University of London, University of Reading, University of St Andrews, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of Surrey, University of Sussex, University of York.

65   UUK (Nov 2009) The impact of universities on the UK economy Back

66   UUK (Nov 2009) The impact of universities on the UK economy Back

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Prepared 25 March 2011