Go back

Visa reforms ‘destroying’ private university sector

Student visa reforms to remove the part-time working rights of international students at private higher-education colleges are proving devastating for the sector, a report has found.

The report, “Tier 4 tears: how government student visa controls are destroying the private HE sector”, was published by the Liberal Democrat-leaning think tank Centreforum.

The decision to cut work rights for international students at private colleges—but retain them at publicly-funded institutions—was announced by Home Secretary Theresa May in March last year.

The report, compiled by Chris Nicholson, argues that the decision is unfair and urges the government to take action on the discrepancy.

It also recommends removing Tier-4 international students from net-immigration figures, which the government has pledged to slash. International students who eventually go back to their home countries, it argues, should be seen as visitors rather than immigrants.

The report quotes figures from a survey by Study UK, which is a membership association for accredited independent colleges. The survey, from November 2011, show that the number of enrolments to private providers had dropped 71 per cent since the previous year.

In addition, it says, the survey found that the most common reasons for the drop given by colleges in the survey were the lack of part-time working rights and the complexity of immigration rules.

The impact of the visa reforms, says the report, is devastating. Study UK estimates that the loss of tuition fees could be up to £400 million.

It also argues that many private providers have had to close or be taken over by a public partner organisation.

It highlights Cavendish College London as an example of an institution that has been forced to close due to a drop in student numbers.

The report quotes figures from the vice-chancellors’ group, Universities UK, showing that around two-thirds of all UK universities have some form of partnership arrangement with private institutions.

“Private sector HE colleges can offer traditional universities an outlet to increase their revenues through collaborative arrangements whilst attracting greater numbers of international students to the UK by offering flexible learning options and low cost university degrees,” reads the report.

“The availability of lower cost degrees will also serve the domestic market going forwards as the government seeks to open up the HE sector to greater competition,” it adds.