Foreign students: a belated welcome

James Brokenshire, the immigration minister, said that he wanted to ‘underline’ a ‘message of welcome’ to international students

March 27, 2014

The new immigration minister has said that he wants to welcome international students to the UK, in a departure from the threatening rhetoric he used earlier this month towards universities.

Speaking at an event at the House of Commons last week, James Brokenshire struck a much more conciliatory tone after an outcry by sector figures over his previous comments, made in his first major speech in the role.

During the event, organised by the University of Sheffield to launch a new video explaining to Chinese prospective students how to obtain a visa to study in the UK, Mr Brokenshire said that he wanted to “underline” a “message of welcome” to international students.

“Yes of course we have to put controls in place around immigration, but…[we will do so] in a clear and better way…one that does continue to encourage talented young people to want to come to study at our universities,” he told his audience.

He said that he wanted to see a “thriving” university sector and international students “enriching our universities and our country”.

At the beginning of the month, Mr Brokenshire said it was a “ludicrous fiction” that the government’s immigration policy was harming the recruitment of international students. He said: “The trusted status given to universities and colleges who want to attract foreign students isn’t an automatic right. And it is one that carries responsibilities.”

Currently, institutions lose their right to sponsor international students if more than 20 per cent of those they offer a place are refused a visa. This “may be too generous”, Mr Brokenshire said in his speech on 6 March.

Speaking to Times Higher Education at the Commons event on 19 March, Mr Brokenshire said that reducing this threshold was “something that we are looking at carefully” and he would have further discussions with “government colleagues” about any changes to the rules.

He also stressed that immigration compliance issues tended to be around private colleges, rather than universities.

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