Relief greets revised student visa regulations

February 11, 2010

Changes to visa rules for overseas students will come as a relief to universities that had feared tougher restrictions, according to the head of an international student group.

The Government was due to announce this week that it will require students from outside the European Union to pass a more difficult English test, while those on non-degree courses will no longer be able to bring dependants and will be allowed to work just ten hours a week.

But it is understood that there will no blanket ban on overseas students studying in the UK for qualifications below degree level, such as foundation courses or A levels.

The Government had previously indicated that it would impose such a ban, which some universities feared would reduce their numbers of overseas students.

This would have cut off the flow of students who come to the country for lower-level study before staying on for degrees, they argued.

Dominic Scott, chief executive of the UK Council for International Student Affairs, said: "The sector will be quite relieved that apart from English language levels, it appears that most of the entitlements to come to the UK to study are retained."

However, he cautioned that overseas students would be able to sign up for qualifications below degree level only with institutions on a "highly trusted sponsor register".

"We don't know what this register is yet," he said.

Mr Scott also warned that many universities would be affected by a freeze on visa approvals for students from northern India, Nepal and Bangladesh applying to study degree-level courses in the UK.

The UK Border Agency imposed the temporary freeze after a surge in applications raised fears of fraud.

There are reported to have been 13,500 applications in those areas between October and December 2009, compared with 1,800 for the same period in the previous year.

Universities UK said in its international newsletter: "A communique to vice-chancellors was sent by UUK on 1 February which invited universities to provide details of student visa applications already in the pipeline and for details of courses likely to be affected. UKBA indicated that they would expedite the processing of those identified."

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