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Centre Forum report: Government student visa proposals threaten future of private HE colleges

9 June 2011

CentreForum's latest report warns that planned changes to the student visa system will place immense pressure on private colleges that teach university degrees, putting many at risk of closure.

Under Home Office proposals, international students on a university-accredited degree course taught at a private college will not have the right to work part-time to support their studies, whereas students doing exactly the same course at a university will.

An uneven playing field is bad news. Private colleges that provide low cost degrees will struggle if they cannot attract international students.

The CentreForum report Tier 4 Fears: Why government student visa proposals are unfair offers an alternative. International students studying degree courses at private colleges should have the right to work part-time, as long as the awarding university is prepared to sponsor the students' visa applications. That way, universities could continue to expand the scope of their degree courses through collaboration with the most suitable providers.

Commenting on the Home Office proposals, CentreForum's Chief Executive Chris Nicholson said:

"The government is in real danger of shooting itself in the foot. Its proposals risk putting many private HE colleges out of business at a time when it wants them to expand and provide competition to universities to keep fees down."

Sue Hindley, Chair of Study UK, commented:

"High quality private sector colleges have proved they can provide a low cost solution for expanding higher education by working closely with UK universities. But many of my colleagues in the independent sector feel that the government’s plans might force them to close down in the next 12-18 months.

Study UK supports the government in targeting those organisations that have been causing a problem for immigration officials, but the new rules go too far and will penalise the good providers with the bad. If the government is willing to make some minor changes to their proposals they could ensure that genuine students who want to come to the UK to study are not deterred by draconian rules."



The executive summary and full report can viewed from the CentreForum website.

Key recommendations of the CentreForum report:

  • There should not be any discrimination in immigration law between private and public sector HE colleges. If a private sector college can prove it has a good record in admitting genuine students then its students should be allowed to work part-time just as they are at public colleges.
  • The government should strengthen the student visa regime by allowing the universities that award degrees through private sector colleges to sponsor student visas directly at those colleges. This would mean that universities would only choose partnerships with reputable colleges or they would risk losing their right to sponsor visas with working rights.
  • If a student gets sponsorship for their visa from a university then they should be allowed to work part-time, regardless of whether they are taught their degree at the university or through one of the university’s private sector partners. Discriminating against students at private sector colleges is unfair and will deter many international students from studying in the UK.


Chris Nicholson, Director and Chief Executive, CentreForum
T. 0207 340 1161 | M. 07710 808 961| E. chris.nicholson@centreforum.org

Sue Hindley, Chair, Study UK
T. 020 7531 7345 | M. 07889 511 402| E. principal@etgs.org.uk


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