UK Further and Higher Education is once again bearing the brunt of the government’s ill-informed anti-immigration policies.
On Tuesday Immigration Minister James Brokenshire made a statement to the House of Commons, announcing that the highly trusted sponsor status of 60 educational establishments had been suspended following a “detailed and wide-ranging investigation into actions by organised criminals to falsify English language tests for student visa applicants”.
There can be no doubt that the tough-sounding announcement and the suspensions are intended to impress Mr Brokenshire’s boss Theresa May and create a ‘good news’ story for the immigration-obsessed mass media, and actually has little to do with a genuine attempt at a criminal investigation.
While one college was shown to be complicit in assisting in-country immigrants to pass visa-approved language tests, in a Panorama exposé broadcast earlier this year, the announcement of these suspensions is a huge over-reaction. Cheating in any test should be dealt with and the guilty parties should pay the price, but once again the exam provider, language schools, colleges, universities and the whole sector is grouped together in ‘immigration scam’ headlines.
(It will be interesting to see how the government reacts when students are (inevitably) caught cheating on IELTS tests, a product that the British government (and therefore the UK taxpayer) actually part owns! Surely a conflict of interest there, when the government is supposed to regulate foreign student recruitment and the language tests the students take…but has a dog in the race.)
Mr. Brokenshire demonstrated his understanding of the student recruitment process in March when he told the Demos thinktank: “I’m sorry, but is it really unreasonable to require universities to ensure students are genuine? After all, they would hardly admit a British student without checking their A-level results.”
There is no question that the checking of students’ qualifications is the education provider’s responsibility when deciding on places to study, but unlike British A-level students, international students have to go through an often humiliating visa application process (for example proving parents’ source of funds, providing pay slips, and being cross-examined about their study choices) that is nothing at all to do with the education provider.
If the government’s Entry Clearance Officer (ECO) is not satisfied that a student’s parents’ income is fully accounted for, or decides that the student should learn English in a local school rather than one in the UK, the decision is a visa refusal.
Despite the clear fact that visa refusals are out of the control or influence of UK education providers, Mr. Brokenshire wants to hold them responsible for Home Office civil servant’s decisions: He aims to reduce the proportion of visa refusals that educational institutions are allowed, from 20% to 10%.
To those in the know, this all seems nonsensical, because it is utter nonsense. Sadly, the home office only cares about the headlines that will greet any ‘tough’ measure on ‘immigration’, despite the fact that international students (with plenty of international options) are only temporary residents, and are no threat to the low skilled jobs that are supposedly at risk from internal EU immigration.
Meanwhile, Mr. Brokenshire applauds the fact that student visa applications have fallen by 29% since 2010, and will no doubt continue to fall. Fewer international students, of course, means less income for an important sector of Britain’s economy, less foreign currency being converted and spent in the UK, less revenue for UK universities, and so higher tuition fees for UK students in the very near future.
Universities / colleges whose HTS status has been suspended:
University of Bedfordshire
LSBF (London School of Business and Finance)
University of West London
Alpha Meridian College
APS Computer Solutions TA Pitman Training Centre
Birmingham Institute of Education Training and Technology
Blake Hall College
Bloomsbury International UK
Bradford College of Management
Bradford Metropolitan College
Bristol College of Accountancy
Central College London
Central College of Studies
Central Cranbrook College
Citizen 2000 Education Institute
City of London Academy
College of Advanced Studies
College of East London
College of Excellence
FBT (Finance Business Training)
Forbes Graduate School
Hammersmith Management College
Helios International College
Interlink College of Technology & Business Studies
Katherine & Kings College of London
LIT LON Ltd
London Academy of Management and Business
London College of Business Management and Computing Studies
London College of Finance and Accounting
London Corporate College
London Educators Ltd
London Premier College
London Regal College
London School of Advanced Studies
London School of Marketing t/a LS Business School
London School of Technology
London St Andrews College
Manchester College of Management Sciences
Manchester International College (International Learning Centre)
Midlands Academy of Business and Technology
North West College Reading
South London College
Stanfords College UK Ltd
Superior College London
UK Business Academy
UK Vocational Training College t/a UK CAT
West George College
West London Business College