Student Visas - Home Affairs Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by Newcastle University Students Union (SV48)

Newcastle University Students' Union believes that the proposed changes to the international student immigration rules would be damaging for the education sector of the United Kingdom. Not only would it fail to reduce the immigration problems that the country faces, but it would reduce the quality of the education for the future years. The government has a vision to reduce the number of international immigrants working in the UK, but alongside this they would reduce the number of highly skilled personnel in the country, dropping the efficiency of the companies and Industries in the UK when compared to the world. It would also reduce the amount of international investments into the British Economy, and would create a bad image and hostility for the Nation in the International community, and pass a wrong message about the United Kingdom to the World.

  • 1.  It is understood that there is great misuse of the migration system with the existence of the "Bogus" colleges and institutions leading to illegal immigration, which pose a threat to the whole system and forms a great reason for the Government to want to have cuts in the numbers. It is strongly believed that hence the new Immigration rules should not greatly affect students who are studying on degree level courses or higher. It is also believed that the New Visa Application system that has come into place does recognize the threat to Illegal immigration through this passage of bogus institutions and the new system of classifying the Institutions into "Trusted" and "highly-trusted" institutions could be further enhanced to stop illegal immigration which would help curb the issue.
  • 2.  The United Kingdom has over 100,000 Non-UK EU students and over 250,000 Non-EU Students, with a total number of international students resulting into over 350,000. There is no doubt that when a student comes to another country for education, it is not just education he deals with, but enters into a cultural exchange, and many of these international students, then become brand ambassadors of the United Kingdom when they return home. This greatly enhances the image of the United Kingdom in almost all the corners of the world where from these students come from.
  • 3.  Taking a step to restrict, curb or end this restricted, yet free passage of knowledge and cultural exchange would lead to a negative image of the United Kingdom to the World, and pass on a wrong image. We feel that the United Kingdom has a strong education sector, which should still be made accessible to the International Students. Out of the total international students, about 45,000 students are postgraduate research students, which make up over 40% of research postgraduates in the UK, from whom the universities benefit in their ongoing research, raising the standards of the UK Higher Education. International Students also make up over 40% of the postgraduate students and 10% of the first degree students.[68]
  • 4.  Not only would all this lead to a negative image of the UK to the world, it would at the same time bring about a negative attitude in the industry, where in the highly qualified graduates might not want to work in the UK. The image that would come about would be of the UK "using" the highly qualified graduate just because they need them, and in due course of time, they might take a step further to cut down on their existent numbers because they've got their own. The sense of peacefulness would be replaced by the sense of instability and non- security.
  • 5.  The United Kingdom is able to attract this amount of international students because of what it offers to them, quality education, and a chance to explore a different and interesting culture, ability to interact with people from all over the world, all just by choosing to spend important years of their life in here. The decision to come to the UK is not easy for many from outside the European Union, due to the financial implications that it might put them up on. But again, in the package that the UK offers as a top education provider to these students also includes a two year Post Study World Visa (PSW) at the end of the degree. This further gives them a chance to experience working in the United Kingdom, but also makes them better employable when they return back to their respective countries. The committee should be aware of how the exchange rates work, and the direct implication cost to a student, for e.g. from China, for whom the implication is 10 time the cost in GBP, or from India, for whom the cost is 70 times the cost in his home currency. The Committee should also note that the two years extension allows the international student to earn back a part of what he is spending, which has huge international implications.
  • 6.  Not all students coming to the UK are well off, and often take loans to live a dream that the UK has promised them. Many people have been able to make the decision only and only because of the reason that the UK has promised to give them a PSW, and if they fail to do so, then there would not be much difference between the bogus institutions and the Honorary HM Government. Hence it is strongly felt that the PSW should continue to exist, and if the government does plan to cancel the PSW, it should still be made available to all the students who have been granted student visas which entitles them to a PSW as per the present rules, i.e. all the students who are on valid full time degree or higher level courses.
  • 7.  Also, it should be noted that the undergraduate or first degree international students, should in no way be penalized by the British Government for choosing the UK as the destination of their 1st degree. With average fees between £9,000-13,000, added to the high living costs in the UK, each of these students invest about £15,000-£20,000 per annum, amounting to £45,000-£60,000(the highest amounts being for the Science and engineering related courses) in three years time, with no estimate of students spending on a four years integrated masters courses. It would not be fair that the UK asks these students to leave as soon as they complete education as for it will leave them under a heavy financial burden. Unlike the UK, other countries do not give student loans for lifetime, and often have time limits (up to 10 years maximum generally) to clear their debts. The HM Government must therefore understand the need of their support to these students, who have invested their career into the trust they have had had on the UK, and have come so far away from their homes with a hope to make a successful career. Hence it is urged that the Government do not take such steps, which might make these students feel that they committed the biggest mistakes of their life.
  • 8.  The UK would hence greatly damage its reputation worldwide, and this damage at this point of time would be irreparable with many countries starting to offer a quality education. It would eventually lead to deterioration of the education quality in the UK. Here the HM Government must understand that by taking these measures, it is damaging one of the strongest pillars that are supporting the nation. It should not be forgotten that the UK is not agriculture based, is not a manufacturing country, nor does it have a huge service sector. One of the strongest links it has is the Education sector, which in turn increases the income of the country as people who come to study contribute to the society. With this in mind it would be wrong to see international students as cash cows, and to kick them out once the government stops to earn from them.
  • 9.  The Government can however make free decision on the status of the PSW for students who would be coming after the change of regulations, and let the student decide if he wishes to come to the UK when he would no longer be given a PSW, it would be a matter of free will. However, as highlighted earlier, the Government should not take a hasty step and cancel the PSW for the students who have been given a visa under the present two year extension scheme.
  • 10.  The previously mentioned numbers should be noted by the committee, and if not sure should try to launch a study to find out how many of the students would have come here to study if there was no PSW, and should foresee those numbers as missing from the University records of their statistical and financial ledgers, and see for themselves where they would then stand in the world, and what part of the "Great Nation" image would be left in people's minds.
  • 11.  With an expected fall in home student numbers following an increase in the fee, and the resultant loss of international students, it would end up being very difficult for such great universities and so many of these universities to be able to provide any kind of quality education at all. The Education sector in many countries is now becoming more attractive as their quality of education is getting better and better. This would result in a great shift of students to other countries. The choice for these students continue to increase and diverge as many non-English speaking countries are now starting to provide education in English, in the European Union, Germany, Russia, South America or China! These decisions would only lead to an end of the UK Education sector.
  • 12.  Newcastle University is currently a community of about 3,000 International Students from 110 Countries from a total student number of about 20,000, which is about 15% of the student body at the University, which plays an active role in promoting the university as a World Class Institution. At the moment, the University earns about 28% of the total revenue with 15% of the total student body, which shows the amount of impact that the international community creates in the whole system.[69]

January 2011

68   UKCISA Higher Education Back

69   Newcastle University Financial Statements 2009-2010, page 10-Student Numbers, page 18-Income Back

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Prepared 25 March 2011