True value of student visas 2

April 16, 2009

Phil Woolas emphasised the need to avoid bogus applications to study in Britain, which is certainly necessary to maintain the UK's reputation as a provider of the academic gold standard ("Only the genuine will pass", 2 April). But while the new Tier 4 visa changes will primarily affect institutions, they do place a number of statutory requirements on students - for example, a letter of sponsorship from an accredited institution and sufficient evidence of funds to complete the course.

When this is taken in the context of new requirements for biometric visas, the increase in visa fees from £99 to £145 and the recent introduction of ID cards for international students, it is clear that the UK international education industry faces significant challenges in making sure that these measures do not dissuade foreign students from studying here, or indeed undermine the value of degrees.

The international education industry is estimated to be worth about £13 billion to the UK economy. Perhaps more importantly, foreign students add a cultural dimension to our learning environment and, after graduating, improve trade and diplomatic relations between Britain and their countries. This is a group that we cannot risk alienating, especially in the current economic climate.

James Pitman, Managing director, Study Group UK.

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