UK Visas and Immigration Update – August 2016 Newsletter


Telegraph article: ‘Theresa May plans new immigration crackdown on student visas’

On 24 July the Daily Telegraph published an article claiming that Theresa May’s new government is in the early stages of preparing the ground for a fresh crackdown on immigration amid concerns that universities have become an easy route into Britain for migrants who want to work. Government sources indicated that Home Office and Department for Education officials are likely to be ordered to examine what more can be done to tighten the student visa regime. According to the article, options expected to be considered include stopping people coming to Britain to take so-called “Mickey Mouse” courses at low ranking institutions, action to stop universities marketing their courses as opportunities for students to work in Britain, and any further steps to make sure foreign students return home after finishing their studies. The full article is online here.

When queried about the article, Home Office Policy officials have disclaimed any knowledge of the source and denied any resemblance between its contents and actual departmental policies or plans, meaning that the anonymous briefing is more likely to have originated from one of the Prime Minister’s political advisers in No. 10. The article contrasts with actual steps currently being taken by the Home Office to introduce into the system an element of differentiation, which is a principle that Independent Higher Education has been lobbying hard for this year in order to refocus the Immigration Rules from blanket categorisations towards differential rights and responsibilities based on individual sponsor track records. The first evidence of this approach being adopted is a new pilot for low-risk institutions which the Home Office is conducting initially with four universities: Oxford, Cambridge, Bath and Imperial College London (further detail about this pilot can be found in Annex 6 of the July 2016 version of the Tier 4 Policy Guidance).

One element of truth in the Telegraph article is that there will be an increasing focus on exit and transitions data, but this can be welcomed in the interest of bringing more light to bear on the currently nebulous state of debate around net student migration.


‘Brexit’ briefings: Hobsons, Penningtons Manches and Shakespeare Martineau

Education technology and market insight firm Hobsons has produced a report drawing on new survey data to explore an international student perspective on the UK’s decision to leave the EU. Key findings include:

  • 43 per cent of prospective international students feel that Brexit has affected their decision to study in the UK.
  • Of these students, 83 per cent say it has made them less likely to study in the UK.
  • However, 61 per cent suggested that the weaker Pound made UK Higher Education more attractive.

Their press release summarising the report’s findings is here. The report has received coverage in a Financial Times article, ‘Third of foreign students less likely to come to UK after Brexit’, online here.

Independent HE commercial members Penningtons Manches LLP have published a briefing exploring some of the possible outcomes of last month’s EU referendum vote for education providers, including discussion of EU student recruitment if the UK formally withdraws from the EU and the single market. The full briefing is online here. Smita Jamdar of Shakespeare Martineau has written an overview of the legal implications of Brexit for higher education, and particularly for EU students.


Progress of inquiry into Home Office removal of overseas students

On 20 July the Home Affairs Select Committee, chaired by Keith Vaz MP, heard evidence from two international students accused by the Home Office of cheating in their ETS TOEIC English language tests as part of a wide-ranging investigation in 2014, as well as from Brink Gardner, former Principal of the independent Blake Hall College, which was forced to close after the revocation of its licence that same year. The hearing forms part of a larger inquiry that the Committee has been undertaking into the Home Office’s actions on this issue, and which is expected to report in September. The evidence hearing is online here.


London BRP collection: closure of Oxford Street Post Office

It is no longer possible to collect BRPs from the Post Office on Oxford Street in central London, as this has closed. Any students who have this Post Office (address: The Plaza, 120 Oxford Street, London W1D 1LT) listed on the letter which accompanied their 30-day entry vignette should instead collect their BRP from the Post Office on Great Portland Street (address: 54-56 Great Portland Street, London W1W 7NE).

This should only affect a limited number of students, as the overseas Tier 4 application form no longer suggests this as a collection point. The Home Office is in the process of identifying which students are affected and will contact them directly.

  • On 29th July 2016