Letter to the Chair of the Committee from
Mina Kasherova, International Students' Officer, Sheffield University|
I am writing to you on behalf of the Student Officer
team of the University of Sheffield Students' Union, in your capacity
as Chair of the Business Innovation and Skills Select Commitee.
We are concerned with the proposed changes to the rights of international
students who hold a Tier 4 visa, particularly the negative impact
they could have the local economies of University cities like
Sheffield and the British economy nationally.
I understand the Select Committee is holding an evidence
session on the impact of the proposals on 24 March,
so I thought it would be worth expressing our concerns with the
The University of Sheffield Students' Union represents
over 24,000 students, of whom just under 5,000 are international
students from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and will
be directly affected by the proposals to reform the Student Immigration
System. Our international students come from over 138 countries
round the world.
At Sheffield the contribution from international
student fees accounts for £48 million, or 12%, of the total
income of the University, while international students at Sheffield
Hallam University bring in £20.5 million to the University,
or 10% of the University's annual income.
International students are not permanent migrants
and are not a drain on the UK economy. They pay full fees for
their studies and have to bring sufficient funds to cover all
their living costs for them and any dependants. If they do work
part time as allowed under the current rules they will pay tax
and national insurance like any other UK resident. In addition
part of their visa fee already includes a surcharge of £50
as a contribution towards their use of public services.
In addition to this, the cities two Universities
jointly estimate that international students bring in £90
million a year to Sheffield's economy, while on a national level,
the Higher Education Policy Institute calculates that international
students bring £8 billion into the British economy every
year, a huge figure in net currency which could potentially be
lost if these proposals go through.
We have consulted our current students and had over
130 direct responses from our international students to the proposals.
In particular they are most aggrieved about the proposals to abolish
the Post Study Work Scheme which allows students who have successfully
completed a degree to stay in the UK to work for two years. Many
students chose to come to the UK because of this scheme and now
feel that their plans are about to be shattered by these proposals.
There is no doubt that the way in which current students are treated
by the Coalition government with respect to the PSW scheme will
be pivotal in managing what could be a devastating "own goal"
in terms of future student recruitment.
Our current students who will graduate in the next
few years came to the UK expecting to be able to get this UK based
work experience. Some have job offers lined for the summer of
2011 upon graduation with UK based companies such as Jaguar Land
Rover, National Grid and Proctor and Gamble. These companies have
recruited these students through a highly selective process and
will only have appointed these students on merit. Given the current
cap on Tier 2, in all of these cases, the employers have asked
the students to apply for PSW in order to take up these posts.
These students are now very concerned they may lose these valuable
In addition, we must highlight to you a particular
problem facing our Architecture students. To become an architect
in the UK is a very lengthy and costly process. The student must
do a BA degree for three years (Part 1) and then do at least a
one year work placement before proceeding to Part 2 of the Royal
Institute of British Architects professional qualification. Part
2 takes two years of further study. This first six years are all
covered under the Tier 4 student rules. However, a person cannot
call themselves an architect until they have done a further work
placement in the UK for 12 months and then successfully completed
a Part 3 exam. The only option for students to do the second mandatory
work placement is under the PSW scheme as they are no longer registered
as full time students. There is no possibility of such work experience
placements being covered under Tier 2. If students cannot qualify
as architects there is no doubt that British universities will
not be able to recruit any international students to their courses.
As one of our Architecture students from Malaysia
"If an exception is not made for non-EU architectural
students, we could study and still not be qualified. It is frustrating
for us because we have spent many years in the UK and worked hard
with the hope of being a qualified Architect only to suddenly
find ourselves shortchanged by the clashes in regulations between
the UK Border Agency and the RIBA. I believe British Schools of
Architecture should be aware of this situation as it suggests
all non-EU overseas students to stop applying to study RIBA-accredited
Architecture courses in British Universities."
We would urge the Government to consider the retention
of the PSW scheme for students in skills shortage areas and courses
where there is a mandatory requirement for work experience in
the UK such as Architecture.
We also believe it is vital that the PSW scheme is
retained for all existing international students who commenced
courses before the publication of these proposals. This is particularly
important for those students who are due to graduate this year
as many of them have already formulated plans based on staying
in the UK. We are glad that the Home Affairs Select Committee
in it's recent report agreed that any changes should not effect
current students and we hope the Government will listen to this
We know that the success of British universities
in attracting international students is as a result of "joined
up" thinking between the various government departments and
the higher education sector. This resulted in intitiatives such
as the Post Study Work scheme which have been very successful
at attracting students who would have gone elsewhere in the world.
In the UK we have a unique offeras one of our students
put it succinctly: "degree + work experience = world class
education". This offer, which speaking crudely brings
millions of pounds into the British economy is now in jeopardy
as a direct result of these immigration proposals.
We support the aims of tackling abuse of the immigration
system, but do not see how proposals restricting the rights of
international students will achieve anything other than reduce
the numbers coming to British Universities.These measures could
make international students feel incredibly unwelcome in the UK.
This is bad for the UK higher education sector and the wider economy
as these students will take their money elsewhere to the US, Australia
and New Zealand in the future. Our students feel that they are
being made scapegoats for wider, and unrelated isuues with the
We recognise the government's commitment to reduce
net migration but do not believe reducing international student
numbers will achieve the desired policy goals. International students
come to the UK to pay for and receive our excellent educational
If international students no longer see the UK as
the destination of choice they will go elsewhere. We all stand
to lose both financially and culturally. Our campuses will be
culturally impoverished places while home students no longer benefit
from sharing classes with students from all over the world.
In addition there could be huge, long term damage
to the UK's economy, as it not an exaggeration to say, as Sheffield's
Vice-Chancellor Keith Burnett, recently did, that these proposals
could "destroy the research capability of the UK", given
that 37% of the Postgraduate Research students at the University
of Sheffield are international, many of whom go on to work for
leading Britsh companies adding greatly to their research and
Anything you can do as a member of the Select Committee
to raise these concerns with Ministers, or question witnesses
on them, would be hugely appreciated. Given we expect a decision
from the Governmnet on student visas soon we feel this is a matter
of the highest urgency.
23 March 2011