Dr Jo Beall, British Council Director of Education and Society said:
“The British Council warmly welcomes the Home Secretary’s reiteration that there is no cap on the number of international students who can come to the UK, and there are no plans to introduce a cap. We also warmly welcome the Home Secretary’s announcement that PhD students will be eligible to stay in the UK for a year after completing their studies. It is vital to ensure there is one clear and unambiguous message to underscore that UK education sectors are open for business. This statement by the Home Secretary makes a start in reducing complexity and confusion.
“That said, we have strong concerns about the Home Secretary’s announcement that UKBA will conduct ‘considerably more’ than 100,000 interviews of prospective students in countries that are deemed to be ‘high-risk’ for abuse. It is vital that only genuine students can get visas to the UK, but it is also vital that quality education institutions are trusted to assess academic and English language credentials. The principle of the ‘Points Based System’ was to take the judgement on intent and English language skills away from Entry Clearance Officers as the point of decision making. The UK’s universities and colleges themselves are the best judge of who is the right student for their institution, and they must be allowed to take responsibility for recruiting their own students.
“By adding to the hurdles of applying to the UK, this measure risks putting off genuine students and making our competitor countries seem far more attractive. Bright students may not live near to where UKBA can interview, in many countries the cost and complications alone of attending an interview could be enough to dissuade a student from applying to the UK, if it is far easier to apply to Australia, for example.
“The British Council shares the government’s commitment to stop people abusing the student visa system, but this should not be done in ways that may put off genuine students from coming to the UK. The British Council is working with the UK Government, UKBA, and the education sector to support overseas recruitment, and we believe that the responsibility must rest on institutions to ensure they have the right students for their courses in the UK.”