Is the new tightening on study immigration rules really putting Britain First?

On the 29th of July, David Cameron and Theresa May have announced changes to the sponsorship licenses rules for universities and colleges seeking to sponsor international students.To make a long story short, education institutions will lose their licenses if more than 10% of their prospective students get refused the visa.

However the story is not that simple and short. To start with, the government’s efforts on closing down bogus universities that abuse the system and applicants is a good step forward. However, this immigration rule amendment will put genuine and respectable universities at risk of losing their license for reasons beyond their control. Universities’ duty is to assess prospective students qualifications and make sure their student applications are genuine. They have no control over the visa application process and visa refusals are often based on simple and minor mistakes in the visa application provided by the prospective student. Simple mistakes that when corrected leads to a visa – but by then the harm has already been done to the university.

Taking a step backward in the discussion, the new tightening on immigration comes under the message of Britain First. But what is Britain? Doesn’t the education sector play a key role in making today’s Britain? According to study by Universities UK, the impact of the higher education sector on the UK economy has been increasing substantially. In 2011-2012, universities generated £73 billion in output and contributed over £36.4 billion to the economy making up 2.8% of GDP in 2011. The higher education’s contribution to UK’s GDP is higher than other sectors like “basic pharmaceuticals, air transport, advertising and market research, legal services and computer manufacturing.”

Group Of Diverse International Students Celebrating Graduation

This said, and more specifically, how are non-EU students contributing to the economy?

20% of the total universities output is generated from the enrolment of non-EU students! Yes, that makes £13.9 billion of the total £73 billion. Moreover, non-EU students spend £3.8 billion on fees and accommodation and £3.4 billion on goods and services bought off-campus. The study also highlights the knock-on effects in terms of job-creation and campus life diversity. Non-EU students are behind 18% of full-time jobs generated by the higher education sector in 2011-2012. (More details in infographic below).

“…a major contributing factor to higher education’s impact is the recruitment of non-EU students”

Professor Sir Christopher Snowden
President, Universities UK

 Furthermore, the announcement of the new tightening of immigration rules synchronises with the latest International Monetary Fund(IMF) report warning on the “overvalued” pound which puts the country in an unstable economic state. According the the IMF, UK should be, loosening its visa rules for international students, instead of making them more strict. Also, In order to raise productivity and boost economic growth and competitiveness, the UK should open its doors and ease up the migration process for skilled migrants.


As the demand for higher education is continuously, UK universities cannot afford to lose their attractiveness to international students because of the bureaucracy of the visa system. According to the Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills, in 2011, the UK took the second place as the most popular destination for international higher education seekers. However, would the further tightening on student visa and sponsorship rules make the UK a less attractive destination? According to universities, there is a real concern over losing international students on the basis of visas complexities.

In his reply to The PIE News, Dominic Scott, CEO of the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) has called the new rules as “draconian” and said that the “refusal rates are often out of the control on an institution as students can have visas refused either on subjective ‘credibility’ grounds or just for a missing or incorrect piece of paperwork”. Many of the genuine prospective students with a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from highly respectable UK universities have been refused a visa because of a missing document that has nothing to show on the genuineness of the applicant. Universities cannot be held responsible for administrative errors at the home countries visa applications centres. Hence, in light of the changes in immigration rules, universities have not only to be careful in their assessment of serious students, but also to be sure that the latter are submitting error-free visa applications.

At Migreat, we assist everyone with visa and immigration issue. You can explore your visa options, ask our community a question, and connect to an immigration expert!

Don’t let the tightening of immigration and visa rules stop you from achieving your goals as a student or university! Let the Migreat team handle your visa issues!

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One thought on “Is the new tightening on study immigration rules really putting Britain First?”

  1. Dear I am civil engineering having more than 3 of experience in same field and currently working in Saudi Arab as engineer, my home country is Pakistan , I am interested in Canada for master studies, guide me in this regards .


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