The Government’s planned clampdown on the long running issue of bogus students is both economically justified and entirely fair, says a new report from think-tank Migrationwatch, issued as the government’s consultation period ends on 31 January.
The proposals are designed primarily to stop the widespread abuse by people coming to Britain under the pretence of study and using it as a means of entry that might otherwise be denied them.
In its submission to the consultation process on the proposals Migrationwatch has calculated that while it is likely to lead to a loss of some £95m a year fee income to colleges offering below degree level courses this has to considered alongside the £300m – £500m a year that it has estimated the taxpayer must fund to support British workers made unemployed by bogus students working illegally.
‘This is yet another legacy of the previous Government’s disastrous management of the immigration system which has once again left the taxpayer picking up the bill,’ said Migrationwatch chairman, Sir Andrew Green. ‘It is imperative firm action is taken to rectify the situation.’
‘It is neither economically justifiable for the hard pressed taxpayer nor fair to British workers who have to compete for scarce jobs with people who have cheated the system to come here.
‘The Government is right to take this firm action and in our view their proposals strike the right balance between the need to stamp out abuse while protecting and encouraging those who come here to genuinely study – which are the majority,’ he said.
Sir Andrew said it was important to be clear that the purpose of the government’s measures is not to reduce the number of students but to reduce the exploitation of the present system by bogus students.
In the normal course of events, students should leave after completing their courses to be replaced by others. Over time, therefore, the number of those who arrive will be counter balanced by those leaving with no effect on net migration. There are two exceptions to this. A step change in the number of students will produce a step change in net migration, perhaps tapering off over several years. Also, a proportion of students – 20% in a recent Home Office study will switch to marriage or work thus adding to net migration. Bogus students, however, can displace British workers who would be obliged to live on benefits at very substantial cost to the taxpayer.
He said the government’s proposals were not likely to have much effect on universities. They are primarily aimed at courses below degree level and in private colleges where most of the abuse is believed to take place. In future, only Highly Trusted Sponsors (HTS) will be allowed to offer courses below degree level to adults. There are also measures to ensure that everyone coming to study speaks English to the necessary level and to close the Post-Study Work route so that foreign graduates will no longer be able to stay on for two years to look for work. With new graduate unemployment now at 20%, the latter measure is fully justified.
Said Sir Andrew: ‘The number of foreign students has rocketed since the new Points Based System was introduced. It is therefore vital that the government close off avenues known to be subject to abuse. These measures, which should have been in place years ago, are an important step in the right direction.’