Universities have expressed concern that strict new immigration rules could deter international students from applying to the UK.
All students outside the EU will have to reapply for a visa after four years, regardless of the length of the course, meaning they have no guarantee that they will be able to complete their studies.
Diana Warwick of Universities UK, an association of university heads, warned of the effects of the new system, which will take over from the end of March.
She said, “although students will be able to apply for an extension to complete their programme they will have no guarantee that leave will be granted. This is bound to affect their decisions about whether to come to the UK in the first place.”
She stressed that it was unfair that students who invest considerable financial resources in studying in the UK would not have the certainty that after four years of study they could continue and complete their degree in the UK.
A spokesperson for Oxford University also condemned the proposal.
She said, “the University still takes the view that it will be unnecessarily disruptive and time-consuming for them to have to reapply for a visa part way through a course, and risks sending a negative signal about the UK’s commitment to its international students.”
According to Russell Group, there is already evidence that visa and immigration issues are an area of concern for international students both before they come to the UK, and while they are here.
Aadya Shukla, president of Oxford’s India Society, expressed outrage at the new system.
She said, “unfortunately, the new system with its disproportionately high application fee and opaque processing, send out the wrong signal that overseas students are not welcome.
“Studying at a UK university is already very expensive, now students will face undue anxiety and uncertainty rather than being able to focus on their course.” Student visa applications currently cost £99 and can take over 15 days to process.
International student Sarah Iqbal described the introduction of the new Tier 4 system as, “another blow that will definitely deter international students from applying to UK universities.”
She added, “since the process has now become more complicated it will further discourage students from applying here.”
Konstantin Zhurkov, treasurer of Oxford’s Russia Society, also agreed that the new system will deter international students from applying.
He commented, “it is a gamble on how long the visa re-application will take and whether it’s really worth potentially disrupting your studies for several months at the end of your penultimate academic year, a stress that might otherwise be avoided by applying elsewhere.”
Other international students, however, have dismissed the idea that the new system could act as a deterrent.
Elena Andreeva, a Russian student at Somerville, said, “I do not think that the obligation of re-applying for a visa would deter students – or at least those serious about studying abroad. It doesn’t seem likely that applicants who had successfully completed four years of their course would be denied a visa to finish their degree.”