Consultation on student immigration to the UK launched today

Posted on December 7, 2010 by

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The UK Border Agency have launched a new consultation today to look at how students come into the UK to study. From the point of view of medical research, we need to take a good look at this and check that it won’t negatively impact on students we want to attract coming to the UK to study, or continuing their studies in the UK.

Background

In the coalition agreement the government committed to reducing net immigration to the UK.  One of the proposed strategies to achieve this was by by capping non-EU immigration through Tiers 1 and 2 of the points-based system. On 23 November, Teresa May announced how government planned to do this (see previous post). She also announced they were planning to launch a consultation by the end of the year focusing on Tier Four of the points based system – the route by which students enter the UK

What’s happened now?

The UKBA has launched the consultation focusing on proposals to reform Tier Four of the points based system today. The press release has a quick summary of the proposals.

Damian Green, the immigration minister, launched this, saying it is aimed at tackling abuse of the system:

Too many students coming to study at below degree level have been coming here to live and work, rather than studying. We need to stop this abuse.

and in the foreword Teresa May recognises the value of international students coming to the UK:

Many international students come here to attend our universities, further education colleges and independent schools and we must continue to encourage these students to do so.

I am concerned that the UK is attracting students who aren’t always the brightest and best. The Government wants to ensure that those who enter on a student visa genuinely come here to study, not to work or with a view to settling here.

Our concern will be that any new measures brought in don’t negatively impact on international students wanting to come and study in the UK’s world class research institutes, particularly post graduates doing PhDs and also potentially their transition to post-doc posts. Medical research charities support researchers at all stages of their careers and they need to have skilled researchers to fund – see more info about charities and skills development here.

What next?

The UKBA consultation is open for 8 weeks, closing on 31 January 2011.

Also, the UKBA is in the process of deciding how to apply the changes to Tier 1 and Tier 2 announced by Teresa May on 23 November (see earlier post and background above). There are still issues to be ironed out as to how the proposed Tier 1 exceptional talent category will work such as how exceptional talent will be identified – for example if based on funding received, will ability to attract charity funding be recognised? Also how points will be allocated in Tier 2, will salary be taken into account (scientists tend to have relatively lower salaries), will academic qualifications earn points etc. The Campaign for Science and Engineering has produced a briefing if you are interested in some of the detail of the ongoing discussions.

Posted in: Policy