British MPs slam plans to cut foreign students

17th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

British lawmakers on Thursday strongly criticised government plans to reduce the number of international students entering the country, saying the proposals threatened a £40-billion industry.

The members of parliament urged ministers to abandon plans to raise the level of English required to gain a visa and said the proposals to restrict entry of non-European Union students were based on flawed data.

Training and education of international students was a sector worth the equivalent of up to 46 billion euros or $65 billion a year, noted the report from the Home Affairs select committee, a cross-party group of lawmakers.

"The government has stated that it does not wish to target legitimate students but, at the same time, we would caution against measures which could be detrimental to a thriving, successful industry," the lawmakers said.

Britain's Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government is seeking to tighten the rules governing student visas in line with a pledge to reduce net migration from 200,000 to the tens of thousands by 2015.

Students represent almost two-thirds of non-EU migrants coming to Britain but the government thinks the system is open to abuse, with obscure courses and colleges offering a back door to settling in the country.

In Thursday's report, the lawmakers argued that many students arrive in Britain on courses to improve their English in preparation for university study, and plans to raise the language requirement would affect these courses.

They also criticised as unreliable the data, called the International Passenger Survey, used to develop the plans.

"Generating policy based on flawed evidence could cripple the UK education sector," warned committee chairman Keith Vaz.

The report further attacked plans to stop allowing international students to apply to stay and work after they have completed a post-graduate course.

But Immigration Minister Damian Green defended the proposals, saying the old student visa regime "neither controlled immigration nor protected legitimate students from being exploited by poor quality colleges."

© 2011 AFP

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