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Independent education sector responds to Theresa May comments

13 December 2012

Study UK has responded to comments made yesterday by the Home Secretary, Theresa May, regarding immigration and international student visas.

In a speech to the Policy Exchange think tank in London, Mrs May announced plans by the UK Border Agency to expand its programme of interviews for prospective students to 'considerably more than 100,000' per year from April 2013, but confirmed that there is "no cap on the number of students able to come here - and there are no current plans to introduce a cap". Also from April, non-EU students who complete PhDs in the UK will automatically be allowed to stay on for one year in order to find a job or start a business, to ensure that the UK benefits from their expertise.

Paul Kirkham, Communications Director for Study UK, said:

"We are pleased that the Home Secretary has re-confirmed that there is no cap on international student numbers, and we welcome the growing understanding within Government generally of the value of international students to the UK. Unfortunately the speech also starkly demonstrates her department's continuing marginalisation of independent education providers, who play an essential and expanding role in the success of the UK's education sector.

"Mrs May's statement that 'if you can speak English, and you can get a place on a proper course at a proper university' is typical of the prejudice and lack of recognition faced by high-quality independent institutions. The Home Secretary appears not to understand that many universities depend on the 'proper students' who access their courses by first studying 'proper courses' at 'proper independent colleges'. In fact, recent figures from Universities UK themselves confirm that a large proportion of their international students come through such providers. And it would also appear that she has failed to appreciate the significant contribution of the independent sector to the UK economy in terms of employment, export revenues and direct foreign investment.

"The independent institutions represented by Study UK have risen to the challenges set by the Home Secretary last year. They have secured their future as Tier 4 sponsors, and have on every measure proven their commitment to responsible recruitment and high-quality provision. Study UK members include world-class institutions that attract talented students from every corner of the globe, many of whom go on to further study at UK universities. Despite the welcome news that no cap on numbers is planned, Study UK will be seeking further assurances that Mrs May's vision for recruiting the brightest and best international students will not exclude those who have chosen to study at one of the UK's many outstanding independent institutions."


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