Oxford Vice Chancellor: UK Immigration Visa System ‘Hostile’ towards Students

Yesterday, Andrew Hamilton, the head of the University of Oxford has said that the current UK Immigration policy is deterring international students from coming to the UK. According to Mr Hamilton the Immigration policy has had  an impact on students particularly from India.  One of the changes in the policy in the most recent years is the closure of the Post-Study Work (PSW) route by the Home Office in April 2012. This has been debated as having an impact on the number of students coming to the UK. 

Andrew Hamilton ‘baffled’ by UK Immigration Policy

Speaking at his annual Oration, Mr Hamilton expressed his confusion on the treatment of international students who want to come to the UK:

“Wherever I travel in the world, particularly in China and India, one question persists. Why has the UK adopted a visa system so hostile to student entry? I do my best to answer but, frankly, the question baffles me as well. For the first time in decades, the number of international students at our universities has dropped, most markedly from India. Why are we doing this to them and to ourselves?”

Mr Hamilton added that research conducted by Oxford University’s Migration Observatory found that the British public are least likely to think of international students when the issue of immigration comes up. He explained:

“Study is the least frequent answer given when the public are asked what they consider the motives for migration to be. Student migration simply isn’t an issue for them and there are few votes in restricting overseas student numbers. There are signs that this reality is beginning to dawn across the political spectrum – something to be welcomed and encouraged ahead of the election.”

Impact of Tier 1 PSW Route Closure

Tier 1 PSW migrants scheme officially ended on 5 April 2012 and for the first time in 30 years the number of international students coming to the UK has declined. The number of first year students from India coming to the UK has dropped by 25%, meaning in the last two years the number of first year students from India in the UK has sharply declined by 49%. According to HESA’s student data, 39,090 Indian students were enrolled in British universities in 2010-11 for a postgraduate degree but this number fell to 29,900 in 2011-12. Number of Pakistani students fell by 13.4% while those from Saudi Arabia fell by 4%.

Ranjan Mathai, India’s High Commissioner, has stated that visa restrictions on students’ right to work after finishing their courses is just one of the reasons international students are choosing to go elsewhere.

“Many of the students who I’ve had an interaction with feel that if they’d had a chance to pay their way by staying on for a year – which the system before allowed – then it would make their taking loans and coming to the UK for education more worthwhile, more possible. That’s one reason the numbers have gone down.”

Despite the decline of students coming from India and Pakistan, there are are number of nationalities that have seen an increase. In the year ending March 2014, the number of student visas issued to Chinese students was 4,720.

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