Foreign students are to be banned from working in the UK whilst they are here undertaking a course of study and will be forced to leave the UK as soon as they finish. These changes come under tough new rules recently revealed by Theresa May, the Home Secretary. The changes, confirmed by the Home Office, are being introduced with the aim of cracking down on visa fraud within the UK.

Who will be affected?

The new rules will only apply to non-EU students in the UK, who accounted for around 121,000 migrants in 2014. Only 51,000 of those foreign students left the UK after the end of their course of study, leaving a remaining net influx of 70,000. Mrs May quoted these figures in an effort to justify her motivation for introducing these stricter rules.

Why the changes?

Mrs May wants to stop migrant students using colleges and universities as a “back door to a British visa” and has curtailed the ability of 870 “bogus colleges” from accepting foreign students. Her plans will be proposed to MPs next week and if approved, students from outside the EU studying in the UK will have to leave before applying for a UK work visa. James Brokenshire, the immigration minister, said the rules would “stop immigration cheats abusing publicly-funded colleges”.

“Immigration offenders want to sell illegal access to the UK jobs market – and there are plenty of people willing to buy,” he said. “Hardworking taxpayers who are helping to pay for publicly-funded colleges expect them to be providing top-class education, not a back door to a British work visa.”

“Our reforms, which include introducing English language testing, removing sponsorship rights from hundreds of bogus colleges, and restricting students’ access to the jobs market, are all of our plan to control immigration for the benefit of Britain.”

 Academics have criticised Mrs May’s crackdown on foreign students remaining in the UK and have said it would hamper talent acquisition activities for many. Professor Paul Webley, director of Soas university, said: “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.”

What do we think?

Despite understanding the logic behind these proposals, they will undoubtedly have a negative backlash on many students who genuinely come to the UK to undertake a course of study and then seek gainful employment. Many students come to the UK honestly, do not plan on taking advantage of the UK immigration system and eventually benefit our economy through employment. If students are to be barred from an easy transition from study to employment, there is a high chance that many will be deterred from coming to the UK. The government needs to be cautious with regard to their current approach to reducing net-migration.