“Great suspicion” of foreign students affecting cash flow

Enforcement of complicated new visa laws deterring overseas students

26th May 2009: Business school leaders believe ‘great suspicion’ of foreign students by UK Border Agency is slamming shut the chapter on healthy cash flow.

The enforcement of complicated new visa laws is deterring overseas students, bringing billions of pounds to the UK economy, business school leaders have warned.

Their contribution can be gauged from the fact that almost three quarters of the 340,000 overseas students studying at UK universities in 2007-08 were non-EU nationals. As the pound is weak, thousands more are expected to apply to study here.

In fact, the British Council estimates international students are worth more than £8.5bn to the UK economy.

The warning by the school leaders comes less than two months after the government introduced a new points-based immigration system for non-European students on 31st March. The intention was to prevent terrorists from entering the country, and to crack down on bogus colleges.

All this has led to growing alarm that UK Border Agency officials are incorrectly interpreting the rules and rejecting genuine students. In the process, they are threatening a huge source of revenue, when the UK is already in financial crisis.

Problems will become increasingly serious for institutions as their recruitment cycle peaks in July and August and students are left unable to start courses in September.

Jonathan Slack, chief executive of the Association of Business Schools, says the students being deterred is "already a reality not just a perception.

"It’s also adding extra layers of difficulty and bureaucracy in trying to recruit high quality international faculty."
Prof Andrew Clare, associate dean of Cass Business School, insists the rules are already having an effect.

"This is a one shot game – students don’t get a second try if there’s a mistake on their application form," he says. "They will go to other European business schools that teach in English and that export revenue will be lost forever."

Prof Julian Birkinshaw, the London Business Schools’ deputy dean for programmes, says the rules are delaying recruitment of overseas academics.

In one case an application was rejected because a copy of a degree certificate from 20 years ago had been submitted, rather than the original.

Prof David Weir of Liverpool Hope University’s business school says: "It’s enormously difficult to get visas even for bona fide courses.

"Students are apparently treated with great suspicion by most British authorities, when 99.9 per cent are absolutely legitimate."

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