`Complex visa regulations make studying in Britain disagreeable alternative’

Regulations perforated with errors, insist academic institutions





29th October 2009: Even though the UK Border Agency claims the new visa and immigration requirements for overseas students are simple, accessible and easy to follow, academic institutions believe the rather complex regulations are in danger of sending wrong messages to foreign students. In fact, the regulations threaten to make studying in Britain a clearly disagreeable alternative.


The institutions are, rather, of the opinion the regulations are perforated with errors and inconsistencies, are bureaucratic nonsense; and at stake is the British higher education sector’s international recruitment aims.


Quoting examples, the Times Higher Education says a young Chinese "leader of the future" with plans to get himself trained at a UK business school would be faced with the daunting task of filling up a 47-page application form, asking for details like support for terrorism.


It goes on to say the Manchester Metropolitan University‘s Business School offers a management training programme for "leaders of the future" from China. Running for two years now, the course is funded by the European Union delegation to Beijing and is supported by the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade.


The university earns substantial income and it is believed the course goes a long way in boosting UK-China relations. As of now, a vital part of the course is an unpaid internship in an EU country.


But under new immigration rules, any participant in the course planning on an internship in the UK needs a Tier 5, temporary work, visa. And under the points-based immigration system, applicants for these visas need overarching UK government department support.


The principal lecturer in international business development at Manchester Metropolitan, Chris Thomas, says initially the UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) refused to support the programme on the ground the fresh set of regulations were too arduous.


He says the programme was saved after the EU Ambassador to Beijing intervened personally with the UK Ambassador. The intervention saw the chief executive of UK Trade and Investment write to the head of the UK Border Agency to confirm support. But Thomas believes applicants to less high-profile courses offering UK internships may not be so lucky, despite the UKBA’s insistence that support will always be given for legitimate programmes.


On the other hand, national lead for temporary migration at the UKBA Jeremy Oppenheim refutes that the new process is expensive, unwieldy and inappropriate.


The new system for students is simple and accessible and has been developed in close consultation with the education sector, through regular meetings of the Joint Education Task Force and the various representative bodies for higher and further education.


Prospective students wishing to study in the UK know exactly what they need to demonstrate to qualify for a student visa, and there is detailed guidance on our website dealing with all aspects of the process. Thousands of students have already applied without any problems.


Far from making the application process more complicated, under Tier 4 students are assessed against transparent and objective points tests, demonstrating that they have a place on a course and sufficient funds to maintain themselves, he asserts.

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