One of the few bright spots for international education in the UK last year was the introduction of the extended student visitor visa (ESVV), now under review by the government.
Although this visa, a ministerial concession, is purely for English language students, it has direct benefits for UK universities as it covers longer courses of six to 11 months, enabling students without prior language attainment to reach the B1 level required for points-based visas to study for degrees. Students prevented from studying English here who go to one of our competitor countries tend to stay there for higher education as well.
A survey of our member centres has found that the ESVV is fulfilling its purpose with no evidence of abuse. Around 85 per cent of students reached B1, 93 per cent subsequently applied for new courses and returned on new visas, and the refusal rate was just under 8 per cent - less than half of the threshold for highly trusted sponsor status.
Given this positive evidence, we have written to Damian Green, the immigration minister, asking for the ESVV to be made permanent. Without the ESVV, we risk not only preventing many genuine students from studying in the UK but also causing further damage to our world-class language centres and universities, at a time when competitors are only too keen to take our place as the international education destination of choice.
Tony Millns, Chief executive, English UK