OVER 100,000 non-Europeans planning to study in the UK face interviews for visas, after Home secretary Theresa May announced that the government would ramp up scrutiny of international students.
Ms May said the government would fully implement a pilot program that had seen 2300 prospective students interviewed over the past year.
The move pushes the UK in the opposite direction from Australia, where students from ‘high-risk’ countries no longer face interviews if they intend to study at universities participating in the new ‘streamlined’ visa system.
“Paper-based checks weren’t working, and interviews – conducted by entry clearance officers with the freedom to use their judgement – work,” she said in a speech delivered earlier this month.
“Through more and more interviewing, we are getting better at identifying and rejecting people we don’t want to come to Britain.”
Ms May said the interview program would immediately be “radically” extended.
“Starting with the highest-risk countries, and focusing on the route to Britain that is widely abused – student visas – we will increase the number of interviews to considerably more than 100,000.
“From there, we will extend the interviewing program further across all routes to Britain, wherever the evidence takes us.”
Ms May’s words reportedly led to her being compared to the Daleks, the sinister, impersonal robots from the Doctor Who series.
“The essential tone and message means she is continuing to cast this dark cloud over British higher education, and continuing to counteract and undermine government policy in this area – which is to nurture and increase the flow of (legitimate) non-EU students to British universities,” University of East Anglia vice-chancellor Edward Acton reportedly told Times Higher Education.
“Rather like a Dalek, she will forge ahead until something gets in her way.”
THE reported that as well as English language ability, the interviews would take into account applicants’ immigration and education history, study plans and financial circumstances as well as their course providers and agents.
But it questioned how the scheme would be staffed, saying the border agency was “already said to be stretched on staffing levels”.
The interview move follows UK measures including institutional inspection checks, new English language requirements for would-be students, time limits on study, and restrictions on students’ right to work and bring dependents.
Ms May said the policies were “starting to bite”, with student visas reduced by 26 per cent or 74,000, and almost 600 institutions – including London Metropolitan University – losing the right to sponsor students.
Colleges and universities had sent the border agency 90,000 notifications about foreign students “whose circumstances have changed and who may no longer have any right to be here”, she said.
The news wasn’t all bad for international students, with Ms May announcing relaxed work rules for foreigners who had completed PhDs in Britain. This was a “further measure to encourage top students to come to Britain and, if they have something to contribute, to stay in Britain”.
But she said the government would maintain its tough approach to people who used student visas as a back-door to employment in the country.
“When we came to government, we found ‘students’ turning up at Heathrow unable to answer basic questions in English or even give simple details about their course.
“We found colleges that sent students on ‘work placements’ hundreds of miles away from where they were meant to be studying.
“These students weren’t the best and the brightest, they weren’t coming to Britain to study, and they weren’t making a meaningful contribution to our economy.”
Source: The Australian