Visa changes could cost UK dear, says UUK head

The government’s proposed changes to the student visa system could cause economic damage to the UK by destroying jobs in higher education and beyond, the head of Universities UK has warned.

March 14, 2011

Steve Smith, who is also vice-chancellor of the University of Exeter, spoke of his fears in an interview last week at the British Council’s Going Global conference in Hong Kong, where he was keen to tell the international audience that the UK was still “open for business” despite impending visa restrictions.

The coalition government is expected to announce its visa changes for students this week, implementing the Conservative Party’s manifesto commitment to cut immigration to the UK.

Professor Smith said UUK has had an official “embedded” in the UK Border Agency in a bid to ensure that the sector’s key points are not overlooked.

UUK believes it is vital to preserve the progression route for overseas students who enter the UK to study A levels or language courses at colleges and then stay on for university.

“I don’t think for a second that the government wants to damage UK higher education,” Professor Smith said. “But they do seem to think that higher education starts at university and [seem] not [to] understand the pathway point.”

On the potential impact of a sharp drop in student numbers caused by severe immigration restrictions, he added: “We think the impact could be really damaging to the UK economy. It is about jobs…Where else are growth and jobs coming from? They are not just academic and professional services jobs, but also jobs in the cities where the students are.”

Professor Smith’s message for delegates in his conference speech was more positive.

He said that “despite the headlines, the UK continues to welcome international students, and will do in increasing numbers”.

Joanna Newman, the new director of UUK’s International and Europe Unit, said the potential economic impact of the changes and the low rate of visa abuse by higher education students had not been communicated effectively.

The International and Europe Unit could be a channel for these messages, she said, adding that there should also be an emphasis on helping more UK students to study abroad.

john.morgan@tsleducation.com

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Assistant Recruitment - Human Resources Office

University Of Nottingham Ningbo China

Outreach Officer

Gsm London

Professorship in Geomatics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Professor of European History

Newcastle University

Head of Department

University Of Chichester
See all jobs

Most Commented

men in office with feet on desk. Vintage

Three-quarters of respondents are dissatisfied with the people running their institutions

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes

Canal houses, Amsterdam, Netherlands

All three of England’s for-profit universities owned in Netherlands

As the country succeeds in attracting even more students from overseas, a mixture of demographics, ‘soft power’ concerns and local politics help explain its policy

Participants enjoying bubble soccer

Critics call proposal for world-first professional recognition system ‘demented’