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UK Education Losing Out As Visa Problems Sap Overseas Confidence

11 Nov 2012

UKBA revoke Tier 4 licence of government funded Bilston Community College

Is any institution safe under the current regime? 

Bilston Community College is the latest government owned institution to have its Highly Trusted licence to sponsor overseas students revoked by another government agency, the UK Border Agency. 

London Metropolitan University recently lost its licence to sponsor non-EU students was revoked this autumn, a decision which is subject to Judicial Review legal challenge in the High Court

Caught in the crossfire are many thousands of international students who have had their visas cancelled or university/college places taken away through no fault of their own. 

Meanwhile the taxpayer funded London Met university faces a possible loss of £30m. 

The college is located in the Midlands area and with a smaller intake than London Met will not attract the media attention or the promised money to help student victims. 

However, the news of yet another revocation will spread across the world’s newswires and bang another nail in the coffin of the £40 billion British international education industry. 

Duncan Lane of the UK Council for International Student Affairs said: 

“It will be a great worry to students who are deciding whether or not to study here – and to their parents.” 

Speaking to the BBC, Phil Page, a Wolverhampton city councillor for Bilston North, who also acts as a director for the college, says he had been told the college is appealing against the UK Border Agency’s decision.

Current students can remain at the college until 20 December, when an application for a judicial review challenging the decision to revoke the Tier 4 visa status will be held. 

Lane says the revocation of Bilston’s licence will provoke anxiety among the country’s education providers, adding that he has “great sympathy” with institutions who fall short of UKBA regulations.

“It’s difficult to see how anyone could safely comply with every element of the system – and it’s ever-changing.

“When the system was being introduced in late 2008, the idea was that it would provide a transparent, simplified system – we’ve ended up with something far more complex.”

Kris Hall, principal of Isis Language School, says bureaucratic regulations have already caused a drop in the number of overseas students enrolling at his college.

“I feel we are the victims of an ill-thought-out policy that was designed to appease concern about immigration problems but, in fact, has had little effect on migrant workers as most of this influx is from the EU where visas are not required anyway.

“This is damaging to business interests at a time when the economy needs help.” 

A report published by the Higher Education International Unit found the UK is cheaper than the US and Australia in terms of fees and living costs – with appropriate controls in place, says Hall, these benefits should be used to attract more students. 

Computing student Aminul Haque Robin says his first experience of the UK visa system was good, but he experienced delays when transferring university, causing him to miss the start of his course. He received no explanation for the delay. 

This summer, UKBA delays left hundreds of international students stranded without identity documents, and staff shortages forced many others to queue all night to register with the police. 

However, if a student miss a deadline or fall short academically, they can be excluded from their institution in an instant, leaving them without a visa. Yes, a the right of appeal exists, but students are granted only a 60-days grace period in which to remain in the country and pursue their case. 

Students may appeal to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator, but this can take months to decide and will leave the student without a visa and facing accusations of overstaying leading to a possible Sec 320 ban on coming back to the UK.

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