Universities 'could pay overseas student NHS levy'

The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) has raised the prospect that universities could “bulk buy” annual £200 health levies for international students.

August 9, 2013

The government is currently consulting on plans to make immigrants pay at least this amount each year to cover their use of the National Health Service.

“Our current system…attracts ‘health tourists’ - people who take advantage of our current generous entitlements and are able to avoid detection or payment,” the consultation says.

In a discussion document prepared for a meeting of institutions and sector bodies on 8 August, UKCISA asks whether universities might consider a “bulk policy to cover students which might cost less than all their students each paying the annual £200 levy”.

It argues that the health levy would cost the UK far more than it brought in by discouraging international students.

The document also claims that such a scheme would “cause major concern” to foreign governments who paid for their students to study in the UK.

Private health insurance could exempt students from the need to pay the levy. But UKCISA warned that insurance normally comes with an excess, meaning students might avoid seeking health advice, “leading to public health concerns on campus”.

“The vast majority of international students are young and fit,” it points out, adding that those who work part-time while studying already make a national insurance contribution.

The consultation, which closes on 28 August, does however leave open the possibility that the levy “might vary for different groups”, raising the prospect that students might be exempt or subject to a lower charge.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com

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