Just can't get the staff

May 2, 2013

Further to the article “Credibility of credibility interviews for foreign students called into question” (News, 18 April): border officers’ judgement is not the only cause for concern.

Since credibility interviews were piloted in 2012, my colleagues and I have spent months using Freedom of Information requests to try to get a picture from the Home Office and the UK Border Agency about the practicalities of the programme from a manpower, consistency and training perspective (reasonable questions to ask of an agency that, before being put out of its misery, was creaking under the strain of its workload, leading to lost passports, stranded students and separated families). Yet several applications relating to key information have been completely ignored.

One resource we do have is Interviewing Process for Tier 4 Student Visa Applicants, the government’s report on the pilot. Bizarrely for interviews designed to judge standards of English, those involving Americans and Canadians took longest (average 54 minutes), with Colombian interviews the shortest (13 minutes). Furthermore, in Pakistan it appears that the application process took up to five times longer in some cases during the pilot than under normal circumstances.

When the plan to interview at least 100,000 students a year was announced, there was no explanation of where the border authorities were going to find tens of thousands of additional skilled man hours, and there has been nothing in the months since. The stakes are high. More high-profile failures of our immigration system will further damage the UK’s international education brand and drive even more international students into the welcoming arms of our competitors.

James Pitman
Managing director
HE - UK and Europe
Study Group

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