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Theresa May attacks the education sector

Theresa May has announced yet more changes to the UK immigration rules, this time attacking students and the education sector.

The proposals are that international students coming to the UK will not be permitted to work for the entirety of their stay and will also have to leave at the end of their studies. A student visa would usually permit part-time work during term time and the income from this work can be a vital factor in the affordability of UK study to the student

International students bring significant income to the economy and make a valuable contribution to the coffers of the Universities where they choose to study. The proposed changes will discourage many students from bringing that income to the UK and could result in the need for even higher fees for British Citizens who wish to attend University.

Whilst it is the case that non-EEA students will be able to leave the UK and then apply for a Tier 2 General visa from their home country, this is an unnecessary and costly obstacle to UK employers accessing some of the top graduates from our Universities. There is known to be a strong focus from international graduates on Engineering and Medicine, both of which are known to be skills that are in shortage in the UK. These proposals seek to reduce the number of top graduates that UK industry can choose from and many would suggest that this is the exact opposite of what British business needs.

The changes are potentially damaging to UK Universities, industry and the country in general. To compete in the globalised economy that now exists the UK needs to be part of the global economy and the ability for the right people to be able to move between the various countries involved is vital to our success.

The Government made what many consider to be a rash promise to control net migration, this being something that cannot be controlled as outgoing numbers cannot be controlled. In ever more desperate attempts to hit this self-imposed net migration target our politicians are attacking the only migrants that they can – those from outside the EEA. This has included targeting the partners of British Citizens, denying many the opportunity to have a normal family life due to harsher rules than the equivalent EEA migrant to the UK would face.

Also targeted have been highly skilled Tier 1 General migrants, many of whom worked in the medical and engineering fields, and now students.

More recently, an Immigration Health Surcharge of £200 per year per migrant has been introduced, apparently as a response to ‘health tourism’, yet these changes are only applied to people coming here for a longer term, the vast majority of whom will be paying tax and National Insurance, and the charge is NOT being applied to those coming to the UK as visitors. A simpler solution would have been to require all migrants to have health insurance paid for the period of their visa, yet a cash lump sum up front has been the preferred option.

It is unfortunate that political goals appear to be of a far higher priority than the interests of the UK. Managed migration is a key part of our success on the international stage and the UK needs to recognise this and encourage those who can benefit the country to come here for study, work and the arts.