Theresa May’s overseas students plan ‘blocked’ by chancellor

Plan to force overseas students to leave the UK after graduation appears to have been blocked by George Osborne

January 7, 2015
Theresa May speaking at podium
Source: Reuters
Theresa May has resisted calls to remove overseas students from the government’s target to reduce net migration

Source: Reuters

Ms May had wanted the Conservatives to include the policy – which would have made universities responsible for ensuring students left the country – in their manifesto for the general election.

The inventor Sir James Dyson criticised the plans this week, saying that they would harm the UK economy.

According to a report in the Financial Times today, senior Conservative officials have said that “the measures will not be included in the Tory manifesto, with Mr Osborne a leading voice in warning that the move would be damaging to the economy”.

“We have a policy that international students can stay when they graduate if they find a graduate-level job paying £24,000 a year,” the newspaper quoted a Tory official as saying.

David Willetts, the former universities and science minister, discussed the developments on the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning.

He said of Ms May’s plan: “I don’t think it was a good idea.

“It was never government policy and I’m pleased that, judging by these press reports today, it’s not going to be Conservative policy at the next election.”

Ms May’s proposal on overseas students, made shortly before Christmas, was widely seen as part of an attempt to position herself for a potential Tory leadership bid by seeking favour from the Right of the party.

Although the plans now appear to have been rejected by Tory colleagues, overseas newspapers had already reported Ms May’s plans. This is likely to have raised fears among UK universities that the perception overseas of the country as a welcoming destination for foreign students has been further damaged by the affair.

“UK to ‘kick out foreign graduates’ to curb immigration,” ran a Times of India headline.

“Come to the UK: Graduate, and then get the hell out!” was the Bangalore Mirror’s take on Ms May’s plans.

john.morgan@tesglobal.com

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Reader's comments (1)

That's good news, but the sector needs to continue to push hard to counter the students as immigrants theme. Particularly we must tackle both the rhetoric and some of the dubious data that gets repeated. So, on Monday when the Home Secretary defended her proposal in the Commons, she relied on two main ideas. She said: "Of course we want people who wish to come here to do genuine degrees at proper educational establishments, but the Government have been clearing up the abuse that was allowed to run rife with student visas under the previous Labour Government, and 800 colleges are no longer able to take in overseas students. We want the brightest and best to come to the UK, and that is exactly what our policies are destined to do." The "Brightest and best" formulation has all the exactness you'd expect of a phrase taken from a hymn. Only wise men need apply. The other, ois the notion that 800 bogus colleges have been shut. She didn't say that on Monday, but the PM has. This isn't the case - 800 sponsors have come off the register, but that double counts a whole slew that have gone back on (London Met is just one example) but also a much larger number of perfectly good places that have come off the register on their own volition. As well as many language schools that will have opted for shorter courses that students can access with a student vistor visa, there are a number of prep schools, secondary schools and colleges. Ministers allow the impression to form that the 800 were all bogus colleges with fake students. Clearly there were some places that we should all be grateful have been closed down - we read that some 'independent' universities want to dissociate themselves from the 'dross' - but the whole sector should own the efforts to drive out fraudulent colleges, whether they are immigration scams or not.

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