We’d previously noted that the Migration Advisory Committee’s conclusion was that if the Government is to meet its political target – the reduction of immigration to tens of thousands rather than hundreds of thousands, students and spouses will have to bear their share of the cuts.
Today’s consultation paper issued by the UK Border Agency ‘the student immigration system’ builds upon the above by discussing how it intends to go about undertaking this task, whilst also more generally minimising abuse within the system.
The measures the paper advances in part reflect a reversal of immigration developments under the Labour Government. These as a matter of policy deliberately sought to make the UK an attractive destination for students. They also to some extent represent policy continuity in that they build upon control mechanisms established under Labour to regulate a larger international student presence.
The key proposals are:
- Closing the Tier 1 Post-Study Work route altogether
- Restricting Tier 4 largely to degree level courses with only Highly Trusted Sponsors being permitted to offer courses below degree level
- Requiring Tier 4 (General) degree level students and yes, those also coming to learn English to pass English tests at the higher B2 level
- Allowing dependants of Tier 4 students to accompany them only in circumstances where students are studying for more than 12 months
- Removing permission to work for all dependants except where they qualify in their own right
- Significantly limiting work for students so that they can only work on campus during the week and for any external employer on the weekends
- The possibility of introducing different requirements with regards to evidencing maintenance and previous qualifications for applicants from ‘high risk countries’.
- Tightening accreditation procedures for education providers in the private sector
- Raising the ratio of study to work where courses include work placements
- Requiring students wishing to study new courses to show that the course represents progression to a higher level
- The possibility of requiring students who want to study a new course to return home and study from overseas.
Opening the door to race discrimination?
One of the achievements Labour likes to credit itself with is decoupling race from immigration- the Points Based System was said to mark a new approach in this respect through the use of ‘objective and transparent’ criteria. (Whilst this has some truth to it, it is not entirely correct given the indirect effects that fixed maintenance requirements and English language requirements have had in practice and given also the role of risk assessment in the ultimate design of the tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme.) The proposal in this paper however marks an unwelcome change in general direction.
In summary the proposal is for more demanding documentary requirements to be made on certain groups. One proposal is that there are more demanding documentary requirements (funds, qualifications and offers) to be made in relation to those who have ‘high immigration risk’ nationalities. The paper rightly goes on to acknowledge that this would require an exception from the statutory race equality duty – otherwise this would be discrimination which would be unlawful.
Exceptions of this kind have historically been cause for concern. A constant theme in the previous reports by the Race Monitor was that the nationals to whom they applied were less likely to be given the benefit of the doubt in matters, and more likely to receive a refusal. To this extent the exemptions often turned out to be self-fulfilling.
Of course aside from all of this reducing student numbers through limiting non degree level courses, upping the English language requirements, limiting entitlements, and eliminating the Post Study route in itself is frankly a bit daft.
The Migration Advisory Committee closely examined the Post Study Route only last year. It noted that the effect of its abolition would be ‘significant’ for university funding and that the route should be retained.
As we also previously noted half of all overseas degrees students recruited by universities in fact start out on sub-degree courses.
With education and training exports worth almost £40 billion as a whole -representing the second biggest contributor to the UK’s net balance of payments, this is scarcely something we can afford to do at a time that we’re also making wapping great cuts both to the further and higher education industry.
You can read all about these proposals, the cap and everything else you want to know about the labour migration system in JCWI’s new Guide to the Points Based System out in January 2011!