Dismore raises risk to London economy of Conservative Government’s student visa policy

At the London Assembly plenary  today Andrew Dismore, Labour London Assembly member for Barnet and Camden challenged the Mayor’s chief of staff Sir Edward Lister over the implications of the Government’s student visa policy for London’s economy . ( video link)

Sir Edward had previously reported to the Assembly that the numbers of Indian students had halved between 2009 and 2013 due to Government  immigration policy and that he was convening a meeting of universities to discuss the issues.

Mr Dismore asked:

‘What will be  the impact of the Government’s July 2015 tightening of student visa rules on London’s further  education and university sector in terms of attracting bona fide foreign students; bearing in mind  the consequent impact on London’s economy?’

Sir Edward agreed with Mr Dismore’s suggestion that FE colleges should also be involved in his discussion with the universities. He also said that the Mayor had been pressing for changes to the immigration rules, but was not getting any traction with the Home Office.

After the plenary, Mr Dismore said:

‘London increases its Gross Value Added by £20m for every 520 international students, equivalent to 97,000 leisure tourists. It’s clear that despite his bluster, the Mayor carries little weight in Government when it comes to promoting the interests of London and Londoners, with his representations to central government ignored.

With their latest visa restrictions the Conservative Government is making it harder than ever  to get the world’s brightest and best to come to London to study.

‘International students provide an important contribution to London’s economy, both in the short term and long term. Their experiences here benefit our national economy as the friends and contacts these students make which help our exports and inward investment , long after they graduate and have build their own careers. To fail in his  representations about this serious threat to London’s economy is a dereliction of the Mayor’s duty to London.’

Notes for editors:

The economic value of international students

Regeneris Consulting produced a report for London and Partners in 2012 which outlined how international students are crucial to London’s economy because of the length of their stay in the city. It is from this report that the quoted figures  above originate.

Changes to the student visa system

In 2012 the government introduced a raft of changes including limits on the number of years non-European students can spend studying and restrictions on the number of hours of paid work they can perform during and after the completion of courses.

In July 2015 even stricter regulations were enacted including a complete ban on non-EU students working while studying in addition to:

* Reducing the length of further education visas from three years to two

* Preventing college students from applying to stay on in Britain and work when they finish their course, unless they leave the country first.

* Preventing further education students from extending their studies in Britain unless they are registered at an institution with a formal link to a university.

Academics’ and students’ reaction  to the changes:

“International students bring money and – if they stay – talent to the UK that the country would not otherwise attract. All British Universities, including SOAS, have good systems for ensuring compliance with the student visa system. From our experience, students who stay on after they finish their studies develop very strong links with the UK, and so have an understanding of and affinity for the UK that is of great long term benefit for the country.”

Professor Paul Webley, Director of SOAS University

(This is) “The latest in a long line of attacks handed down to international students by the government”.

Mostafa Rafaai, NUS International Students Officer