The UK Government has published a consultation in respect of the student immigration system. It has committed to making changes across the immigration system to achieve its overall aim of reducing net migration.

The Government's consultation has set out a number of proposals for affected and interested stakeholders to comment on. The Consultation will run until 31 January 2011 and the proposals are as follows:

  • Closing the Tier 1 (Post-Study Work) route.
  • Restricting student working rights so that students can only work on campus during the week and for any external employer at the weekends and during vacation periods.
  • Raising the ratio of study to work from 50:50 to 66:33 for all work placement courses, as a means to make courses less attractive to students using them as a way to gain access to the UK employment market.
  • Removing the right to work for all dependants of Tier 4 students, unless the dependant can qualify in his or her own right under Tiers 1 and 2 of the PBS.
  • Restricting those students who can be accompanied to the UK by dependants to only those who are studying for more than 12 months in the UK.
  • Imposing different requirements as regards demonstrating evidence of maintenance and previous qualifications for students of different nationalities. Those nationals who come from a country that is deemed by the UK Border Agency as being low risk in respect of forged documentation will have simpler procedures for demonstrating that they meet the requirements of Tier 4.
  • Tightening the accreditation regime for sponsors in the private sector. The Government will work more closely with other Government departments responsible for education across the UK to review the work of the currently approved accreditation bodies in relation to private further and higher educational establishments. This will allow them to establish what can be done on an institutional level to ensure the quality of education provision, and how this links up with meeting the Tier 4 sponsor duties.
  • Restricting Tier 4 to largely degree-level courses and child students. Only Highly Trusted Sponsors (a term introduced in April 2010 for those education service providers that have a proven track record of student retention and compliance) will be permitted to offer courses below degree level to adult students.
  • Maintaining the existing rules that lower level courses of less than six months are outside of the PBS and within the visitor immigration rules.
  • No further tightening of the Tier 4 (Child) route, which allows for children aged between four and 15 to study at independent schools and those aged 16 or over to study at any licensed sponsor institutions.
  • Raising the Tier 4 (General) language bar to a competence level of B2, acting as a key indicator of fitness to complete a higher level course.
  • Introducing measures that will only allow a student to extend their stay in the UK to undertake a different course if they can demonstrate clear academic progression to a higher level. The Government is also considering whether the student should return to country of origin, rather than make an in-country extension application.

We will publish our response to this consultation in January 2011. If you would like the Government to take your views into consideration, the deadline is 31 January 2011.

Full details of the consultation can be found here.