Student visitor route attracting brightest and best to UK, report shows

The student visitor route is working well, attracting genuine, talented students for short-term study at UK institutions, a new research has revealed.

The aim of the study, carried out by the Home Office, was to build up a picture of who uses the route and where they study.

The study shows that short-term students are attending accredited institutions and most are doing English language programmes or university exchanges. There is no evidence of displacement from the main student route, for longer periods of study and study at higher levels, into the student visitor route.

“It is right that international students have the opportunity to take up short courses in our world-class colleges and universities, and this research shows how well the system is working,” said Immigration Minister Mark Harper. “Overall, we have made substantial inroads in reducing immigration, with figures showing we have cut out abuse while encouraging the brightest and best migrants who contribute to economic growth.”

Most recent statistics show a 5% increase in the number of sponsored student visa applications for UK’s world-class universities, and a 5% increase in the number of visas issued to skilled workers.

Latest UCAS statistics also show that applications from international students are up 5.5% compared to this time last year. It also emerges from the Higher Education Statistics Agency’s latest reports that the total number of non-EU students at UK’s universities continues to rise.

The Home Office’s study further revealed that most student visitors stay for less than three months, suggesting those using the route are genuine and do not abuse the system by staying longer than needed.

Ten per cent of those from visa national countries (who need a visa to enter the UK) and almost a third of non-visa nationals (who do not need a visa) were studying courses leading to qualifications equivalent to degree level, showing the route is also being used by some of the brightest and the best.

The report also shows that 87% of non-visa nationals and 90% of visa nationals are attending institutions on the Home Office’s register of sponsors under Tier 4 – the student tier – of the Points Based System.

Around two-thirds of visa nationals were accounted for by five nationalities: Russia, China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and India, many of whom are studying English. The largest number of student visitors come from the US (accounting for 44% of the total), with the study suggesting that 85% of these US nationals taking part in exchange courses.

The student visitor route allows people to study for up to six months in the UK. Unlike those coming to the UK through the main student route, student visitors do not have to be formally sponsored by an educational institution. However, they must attend an institution which is accredited to provide education.

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