UK unveils new curbs on student visas

Published: March 24, 2011
The new rules aim to cut overall levels of non-EU immigration into Britain.

The new rules aim to cut overall levels of non-EU immigration into Britain.


The UK government has toughened rules for admitting foreign students to its educational institutions. The stricter rules will include a more stringent requirement on foreign students’ ability to speak English and tighter restrictions on their working while they are in the UK, Home Secretary Theresa May announced.

The package is part of the Conservative-led government’s pledge to reduce overall levels of non-European Union immigration into Britain from the 2009 level of 184,000 to the ‘tens of thousands’. The new rules unveiled by British home secretary aim to prevent “bogus students [from] studying meaningless courses at fake colleges.”

Last month, the Immigration Minister Damian Green stated that the primary objective of studying in the UK must be to study, not to work or acquire long term residency status.

“It seems to me that to allow unfettered access to the jobs market for two years to anyone with a student visa from abroad is putting an unnecessary extra strain on our own graduates,” he said. “That’s clearly an area where the current system is too generous.”

The changes announced by May include tougher entry criteria for students, including raising the required minimum level of English language ability, limits on the entitlement to sponsor dependants and the right of dependants to work and the closure of the post-study work route.

The government has, however, clarified that it does not propose to introduce a cap on the total number of student visas issued.

A cross-party Home Affairs Select Committee on March 17 cautioned the government against introducing measures that they said could damage the UK’s thriving education sector. While supporting the government’s clampdown on bogus colleges and bogus students the committee was concerned about the overall effect of changes to an international student market estimated to be worth 40 billion pounds to the UK economy.

The committee was not in favour of denying students the right to work in the UK and pointed out that other countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US gave students similar rights and that the UK would lose potential students to these countries.

Universities Minister David Willetts told the committee earlier this month that differences existed within the government over plans to curb the number of international students. Regarding the post study work route, he said that the whole ‘range of options were still under consideration”.

Usman Zafar, a student at London University’s SOAS, pointed out that most students from the developing world do not have the luxury of studying abroad only for the sake of education.

“For us education is an investment, and integral to choosing the UK as a place to study is the prospect of recouping the investment by working here,” he said.

Regarding English language ability, the government has proposed increasing the required minimum from a ‘B1’ which is said to be equivalent to a GCSE or O level standard of English, to ‘B2’ which is described as a high grade A level or first year degree level English language.

This proposal has been criticised by the Select Committee, which points out that “it is extremely difficult to become fluent in a language without living in a country where it is widely spoken.”

UK government figures reveal that with 75,684 student visas issued from 2005-2010, Pakistan is third after India and China in terms of total student visas issued in this time frame. Interestingly, the number of student visas issued to Pakistanis almost doubled from 12,657 in 2009 to 24,485 in 2010 while those issued to other nationals went down or remained stable.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 24th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (8)

  • aamir siddiqui
    Mar 24, 2011 - 12:38PM

    it is such a tragedy to see that all the pakistanis who go to uk or usa,canada & study,live & work in the foreign countries still have the mentality of the homophobic,misogynistic,intolerant,islamic fundamentalists that are present here.

    my cousins who’ve lived in the west for 2,3 decades when they come to visit have the same women oppressive,homophobic, bigoted mentality they had when they lived here.

    They rattafy the books of the goras but don’t pick up any of their great values & attitudes.
    Our people who live abroad still have the disgusting mentality of women having to be kept behind the 4 walls of the house & not allow them to work or have lifelong careers.

    They still falsely believe that men are somehow better or superior to women,one would have hoped that living abroad would have made our people a bit more civilised but alas that’s not so,we remain the intolerant religious barbarians we were back in pakistan.Recommend

  • faroug khan
    Mar 24, 2011 - 12:41PM

    A lot of the muslim students going over to the west to study retain their hatred for the gay & lesbian community.They still have the attitudes,beliefs & values of savages & look to spread their hatefilled,intolerant homophobic beliefs in the western countries.

    it’s time the western governments required their immigrants to integrate into the culture of their new countries,when the new countries give them all the facilities & comforts they didn’t have back home ,the immigrants also should leave their medieval mentality behind in their home countries.Recommend

  • Rana Asghar
    Mar 24, 2011 - 12:45PM

    Only go to study, shave your beard on your face & inside your stomach before you go abroad otherwise PLEASE stay back & do not destroy the image of Pakistan any further. I appeal to you.Recommend

  • Nadir
    Mar 24, 2011 - 2:42PM

    If you look at the statement made day before yesterday the Post-study work route has been abolished from April 2012. And the English language requirements can be waived if the sponsoring college or university is on the highly trusted sponsor list. The biggest impact of these measures is to allow for the deportation of students at immigration if they cant speak English and connot communicate without the help of an interpreter. Recommend

  • Salman
    Mar 24, 2011 - 8:45PM

    shame on u first three commentsRecommend

  • John
    Mar 24, 2011 - 10:25PM

    @Salman: @Rana Asghar: @faroug khan: @aamir siddiqui:

    For some reasons, the average PAK men students who come to west are more extreme in regressive sense. They are good individuals, work well individually but not as a team.

    In my opinion, PAK women in west are much more progressive than men, whether they speak English or not, generally speaking of course. Recommend

  • UA
    Mar 25, 2011 - 1:18AM

    @stupid Rana Asghar

    U think having a beard is a problem here in UK. Well its not! I have a beard and have never been treated badly here. I have been here for more than 3 years now. I have lots of good friends, English, Scottish, Irish…
    There are good and bad people everywhere in the world. But u cannot judge a country or people based on the very little proportion of bad people.
    And its people like you who destroy the image of Pakistan. U r the ones who leave your own culture, try to adopt other traditions and get lost in the process…
    And guess what happens then?
    Then you come out here and make such comments!Recommend

  • sk
    Mar 26, 2011 - 8:22AM

    I agree with brother UA. Beard is not a problem, main thing there should be Iman in ur heart. I have seen also so many people with beard they are very nice people. People reaspect them.Recommend

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