The rules forbidding foreign students at private institutions from working part-time have led to a 70 per cent drop in applications. This has been revealed through the latest CentreForum report: Tier 4 tears: how government student visa controls are destroying the private HE sector.
Government’s aim to noticeably increase the number of private colleges, risks being overcome, by an over-enthusiastic Home Office attack on immigration.
The report's author and Centre Forum chief executive Chris Nicholson said that the student visa controls made a ridicule of the Government's aim to promote greater variety in higher education. He added that the private sector was being gravely dented.
The author asserted it was a matter of concern that the crackdown would mean that thousands of students from India, China and South America would dump their plans to study in Britain, opting for other English-speaking nations, including Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
The coalition's Higher Education Bill was expected to pave the way for a major growth in the private sector market in further and higher education. But about a week ago it came out that it may not appear in the Queen's speech in May.
Centre Forum, the liberal think tank, cautioned that at least one respected college had already closed while others were working towards cutting back or be taken over by public universities.
The report says the influence of the changes has been quick and almost certainly even more destructive than was expected.
It proposes the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) which desire to open up the private sector to more UK students – against the Home Office, which has bragged of closing up what it claims are "bogus colleges" since the coalition was formed.
BIS ministers are apprehensive that the get-harsh attitude was discouraging overseas students from learning in Britain. They are also worried that many genuine, reputable colleges would also have to close down.
Meanwhile many highly regarded establishments have appreciated tougher rules under Tier 4 of the points-based system for foreign students. These include acquiring Highly Trusted Sponsor status and degree students being able to speak English at upper-intermediate level.
Officials at the Department for Business believe it was only fair to regard those private colleges who pass the tests in the same way as state-funded institutions. They added that there should be a parallel playing field.
Announcing a shake-up of student visas in March last year, the Home Secretary, Theresa May had declared that only students at publicly funded colleges and universities would be able to work part-time.
The Home Secretary had stated that the students who wanted to come to UK should be able to speak English, to support themselves financially without taking paid employment, and to show that they were coming for study, not for work.
Alex Proudfoot, from Study UK, representing the UK independent college sector, said that there was a worry over the Government's variant policies. While figures were not collected centrally, it was thought that at least 30 had closed down in the last year.
Proudfoot added that one of the motivating forces behind all of these changes was the Conservative Party's manifesto commitment to decrease net immigration to tens of thousands. The international students represent the largest stream of non-EU migrants to the UK, if counted as such asserted Proudfoot.
The Centre Forum research was supposed to be crucial to the case put by David Willetts, the Universities minister, in arguing with the Home Office that the rules required to be looked at again. Till date the confirmation from the private sector had been poor.
Download the full report.