Pathway to prosperity:
The Coalition government’s proposed reform of the immigration system seeks to reduce total net migration. The Coalition Agreement stated that whilst immigration has been beneficial to the economy and society, “to ensure cohesion and protect our public services, we need to introduce a cap on immigration and reduce the number of non-EU immigrants”. International students have received particular scrutiny, especially in relation to reducing immigration fraud as they represent the largest proportion of nonEU visas.
making student immigration work for universities and the economy
Whilst the aim to prevent fraudulent students is understandable, the method proposed by the government to enact this policy would deter many genuine students. In particular, two changes will block potential students:
The increase in the minimum level of English language required for a student visa to be granted for university and for pre-degree pathway courses. The previous government increased the threshold in 2010, and any further increase could deter significant numbers of legitimate students from attending pre-degree courses which prepare them for university study. The proposal to increase the minimum level of student visa provision to courses only above A-level standard will hinder talented foreign students whose domestic education systems do not provide them with the equivalent of Britain’s year 13. A-level equivalent pathway courses are vital for many international students to be able to study at British universities.
These proposals will block genuine students from studying which will harm the British economy, higher education system and Britain’s global standing. Previous studies have sought to estimate the impact of the proposals but have noted the lack of reliable data. This study has had access to actual data on the 2009/10 cohort of students at five leading providers offering pathways to university study. Research by the Parthenon Group estimates that the five pathway college groups in our study represent almost half of the pathway market. Hence we are able to estimate the total impact of the changes on UK universities and the economy by scaling up the results from our
Thomas Brooks with Chris Nicholson
‘The Coalition: our programme for government’, May 2010. Recent reports include: E Acton, ‘The UKBA’s Proposed Restrictions onTier 4 visas: implications for University recruitment of overseas students’, The Higher Education Policy Institute, 18 February 2011, S Mulley and A Sachrajda, ‘Student Migration in the UK’, Institute for Public Policy Research, 22 February 2011, The Bell Trust, ‘The Student Immigration System: a Consultation. Response from the Bell Educational Trust’, 11 February 2011. The pathway providers included in our study are The Cambridge Education Group, INTO University Partnerships, Navitas, Kaplan International Colleges and Study Group UK.
study of the five pathway providers. From this data we estimate that:
The pathway providers examined, which work with more than 30 British partner universities, will lose the majority of their business: 70% of their students currently begin on (B1) English language levels below the proposed new minimum standard, and 60% study at a level equivalent to year 13 (NQF level 3).
Universities will lose thousands of students. In total more than 20,000 students per annum progress from pathway colleges. This would mean a loss of £600 million annually from British universities.
This year over 7,000 students progressed to British universities from the language level (B1) that the government is proposing to block.
— Pathway to success
There are clear tensions between efforts to create a re-balanced, competitive economy and the commitment to cap immigration. :