ELT sector will pay the price for further student visa changes
11 February 2011
The introduction of further changes to the UK student visa system would be both premature and damaging to the UK's reputation as a leading international education provider, jeopardising the integrity of the British education product and the international competitiveness of the UK's £28 billion education and training industry. This is the view expressed by the Bell Educational Trust in their response to the latest consultation on the student visa system.
In particular, Bell argue that the proposed changes to the Tier 4* visa system would disproportionately and unfairly impact the English Language Teaching (ELT) sector when the real abuse of the visa system is largely found in other educational areas of the system.
Will Kinsman, Director of Sales & Marketing, explains: "Under these proposals, ELT providers would end up caught in the net of a series of proposals aimed at clamping down on abuse in other sectors. Although the Extended Student Visitor Visa offers some assistance to the ELT sector, it is of little use to those wishing to bring a family member, to take the opportunity of gaining some work experience or to continue with their studies to degree level and beyond."
Bell also argue that the recommendations put forward fail to recognise the 'holistic' nature of the study programmes international students often wish to follow in the UK. These frequently comprise a series of interlocking programmes such as a university foundation programme or preparatory language course followed by a university course.
Finally, Bell claim that the proposals ignore the enormous boost international students offer to British influence and status around the world, both by providing a 'shop window' to the 'British educational product' – which can be successfully exported and delivered overseas – and by creating a network of global ambassadors for Britain.
Will Kinsman continues, "Many international students go on to positions of influence and power in their own country and if they return with a positive experience of the UK that can only be a good thing. For example, Sonia Gandhi, President of the Indian National Congress, studied English at Bell's school in Cambridge in 1964, before meeting her husband – future Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi – in 1965, whilst working as a waitress in a Cambridge restaurant. It seems a little ironic that the woman dubbed '13th most powerful in the world' in Forbes magazine's 2009 survey would, in all probability, have been denied the opportunity to study and work in the UK under the latest proposals!"
Bell's response to the proposed changes, as part of the UKBA Consultation on Student Immigration, was submitted to the government in February 2011, and a full copy of this document is available here.
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Notes to Editors
Bell is a leading educational charity and one of the largest British-owned providers of English language education services. Each year, Bell helps over 100,000 students, from more than 120 countries through one of its 36 worldwide teaching centres and e-channels, primarily to learn English and other languages. Bell operates 9 centres in the UK. Bell International College Cambridge is the original 'Bell School' founded by Frank Bell in 1955.
The organisation also provides teacher training, educational management, consultancy and project services to international organisations, universities and governments. Bell, in partnership with Obeikan Education, is delivering a large scale preparatory year programme involving the provision of intensive English language training at King Saud University in Riyadh, described as 'the biggest language project in the world' (EL Gazette, September 2008).
* Tier 4 Visa: The General (Adult) Student Visa route is suitable for anyone aged 16 or over wishing to come to the UK to study for their post 16 education. The level at which Tier 4 (General) students can study English language courses was raised on 3rd March 2010 from level A2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages to level B2.