Universities will be responsible for ensuring that international students leave the UK after graduation under new plans outlined by home secretary Theresa May. Using information gained from exit checks, the Home Office hopes that the measures will encourage universities to ensure that their graduates do not breach the terms of their visas.
The information will eventually establish a ‘black list’ of universities with the largest number of students overstaying their visas. Sanctions for the worst offenders could see universities lose the right to attract more students from outside the European Union. This comes two years after London Metropolitan University was banned from sponsoring students from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) after a UK Border Agency investigation found that significant numbers of students did not have permission to reside in the UK.
The plans follow the home secretary’s speeach to the Conservative Party conference last month, in
which she said that Britain “welcomed the brightest students from around the world. But … too many are not returning home as soon as their visas run out. I don’t care what the university lobbyists say. The rules must be enforced. Students, yes; overstayers, no.”
In October, The Times revealed the Home Office’s plans to cut the number of non-EEA students in Britain by 25,000 per annum. This would be achieved by setting English language tests that were rumoured “to be tougher than those in place in Australia and America, putting Britain’s top universities at a disadvantage”.
Writing in The Sunday Times, Theresa May claimed that the gap between the number of non-EU students coming to Britain and the number departing stood at 96,000. This figure has been widely criticised. In May, research carried out by economists at PwC and the business lobbyists London First found that foreign students make a net contribution of £2.3 billion annually to the British economy.
Additionally, research announced this week revealed that the majority of international students studying science subjects chose the UK because of its reputation. The study, by the British Council, said that only 29% of International STEM students chose British universities for the job prospects after graduation. In contrast, less than 22% of international science students in America chose it for its reputation; the most common reason was job prospects.