Written evidence submitted by 1994 Group
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
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. VISA RESTRICTIONS
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 coursesboth publicly and privately providedplay
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
2. IMPACT OF
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".
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. ROLE OF
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 studentswho
are often mature studentsit 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
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.
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
UUK (Nov 2009) The impact of universities on the UK economy