English UK Chief Executive takes part in Newsnight report on student visas
9 June 2011

The effects of the Government's intention to dramatically cut the number of international student visas was the subject of a report and wide-ranging discussion on BBC2's Newsnight.

The film touched on the damage to the sector which is likely to be caused by the Government's plans, which may cut student visas by 70-80,000 a year

Tony Millns, Chief Executive of English UK, said: "In my view around 300 and possibly as many of 500 colleges could go out of business which actually will be quite damaging for the UK's international reputation." He also criticised the emerging two-tier visa system, which gives different rights to students depending on where they are enrolled. "We have both state and private sector members but we do regard that as discriminatory and anti-competitive," he said.

Dr Gina Hobson of the British Accreditation Council, also interviewed for the film, said that Study UK had reported an 80 per cent drop in the number of applicants for courses at its member colleges, which she blamed on "uncertainty" and "shifting goalposts".

The film by reporter Richard Watson was followed by a studio discussion between Dr Les Ebdon, vice-chancellor of English UK member the University of Bedfordshire, Sir Andrew Green of Migrationwatch, and Habib Rahman from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

Dr Ebdon talked of the benefits for education which the overseas students brought. Pressed by presenter Gavin Esler, about the economic benefits, he said: "It's a great success for UK plc. £5.3bn of foreign exchange earnings... more than pharmaceuticals, more than aerospace…. This country needs to earn foreign exchange."

He said universities were already recording drops in applications, and that a message needed to go out to key markets that the UK was still looking for bright students.

Sir Andrew Green said: "I think we would all agree students are a good thing providing they are genuine," and criticised the lack of interviews by immigration officers, and that there was no check on departures.

Mr Rahman said the students were temporary rather than migrants.

Click here to view on BBC iPlayer this episode of Newsnight that was originally aired on 2 June.


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