Warning of threat to 24,000 jobs in student visa clampdown

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Up TO 24,000 jobs are at risk as a result of the “destructive and short-sighted” Government clampdown on student visas, a thinktank said yesterday.

Moves to tighten the restrictions on overseas students will risk nearly 12,000 jobs in education and another 12,000 in the wider economy, the study of five colleges that help prepare international students for British university life found.

The Government’s proposals, part of efforts to fulfil its pledge to reduce net migration from 200,000 to the tens of thousands by 2015, also put the five so-called “pathway provider” colleges’ annual £1bn contribution to the UK economy, and £2bn from the pathway sector as a whole, at risk, the CentreForum thinktank said.

Chris Nicholson, the group’s director and chief executive, said: “The Government’s current proposals are destructive and short-sighted.

“These students provide an immense financial, cultural and academic contribution to Britain’s universities.

“It is economic madness crudely to restrict student numbers in this haphazard way.”

Under the proposals, students from outside the European Union (EU) will face tougher tests of their mastery of the English language before being granted a visa.

Mr Nicholson added: “It is right to crack down on bogus colleges but simplistically hiking the English language requirement prevents British universities from attracting some of the very best international students – especially those studying maths, engineering and the sciences.”

He called for the Government to adopt a “smarter approach” by streamlining the accreditation system for college, improving border controls and requiring visa applicants to pay a “substantial deposit” to show their commitment to study.

The vice-chancellor of the University of Sheffield, Prof Keith Burnett, added: “Britain’s world-class higher education system is at risk from these ill-judged reforms.

“By using the one crude measure of English proficiency to tackle bogus students, the Government is jeopardising universities and jobs that rely on them around the country.”

Two thirds of the non-EU migrants who enter the UK come on student visas, figures show.

The Government has said that these students should be stopped from seamlessly moving into work in order to give British graduates the best chance of finding a job.