Immigration minister Damian Green today addressed the think tank Reform outlining his thoughts on student immigration.
Green said he sought to 'eliminate abuses' within the system with his proposals to reform Tier 4 immigration rules. He claimed that 'stricter control will be in the best interest of legitimate students'. Focusing in particular on examples of abuse within the private further education sector, on issues around working entitlements and with the dependants system, Green claimed that changes to the student route were a 'vital building block' in the coalition government's immigration policy.
Green did not explain the rationale behind proposing reforms that directly affect all students in the system, including the vast majority of legitimate international students who do not abuse the system, in order to target the minority of bogus colleges and students.
Proposals to raise the level of English required would affect all international students entering the system, including those studying at universities and other Highly Trusted Sponsor institutions. Likewise the proposed changes to work entitlements, work placement ratios and the rights of dependants, evidence of progression in studies and requirements to return home to reapply for a new course would not just be limited to institutions where abuse is thought to be more prevalent. It is not clear why it is thought necessary to use a hammer of this magnitude to crack the nut of student visa abuse.
Most concerningly, the Tier 1 post-study work route, if cancelled, would dash the hopes of thousands of students intending to gain valuable work experience in the UK on completion of their studies. Many had applied to the UK on the basis that this option would be available to them, leaving them feeling betrayed by the UK government.