As many as 60,000 bogus students could have entered the UK in 2011 alone.
This is the conclusion of a study by Migration Watch, based on the findings of a Home Office pilot scheme which were published last week. Under the pilot scheme applicants for student visas were interviewed to determine whether they were genuine. This involved two tests – whether they were genuine as students and whether they intended to return home after their studies. The Home Office found that the highest percentage of bogus students came from Burma, where 62% would have been refused a visa on doubts about their credibility. In Bangladesh, India and Nigeria, 59% of students were considered as likely to be bogus. When these proportions were applied to the number of applicants from each country in the pilot, it emerged that the total came to 63,000 potentially bogus students in just one year.
Of those who were potential refusals on credibility grounds, 61% were applying for privately funded colleges, 17% for a publicly funded college and 14% for a university.
Following this pilot, the Home Office has introduced plans to interview 10,000 students a year and has set out the criteria on which they will be judged. But it is now clear that the government has lost its nerve and has dropped the second test (intention to return) from the student interview scheme which comes into force as the end of July.
The Australian authorities – often quoted by the university lobby as a good example of student immigration control – have this very test. Their recent major review considered it to be “The first item of business in assessing a student visa application.”
As for the scale of interviews, 10-14,000 a year have been mentioned but this is only about 10% of the number of applicants from the countries of immigration concern.
Commenting, Sir Andrew Green, Chairman of Migration Watch UK said, “We now have clear evidence of abuse on a major scale. Bogus students come here to work illegally and thus take jobs from British workers. If it is clear from the circumstances that a student is unlikely to go home, the visa should not be granted in the first place. After all, many of the advantages claimed for foreign students depend on their going home after their studies.
“These half measures simply will not do. The government have bottled out on bogus students. If they are serious about immigration they must face down the self interested demands of the Higher Education sector and pursue the public interest.”
Referring to the letter to the Sunday Times signed by 37 business leaders calling for students to be taken out of net migration, Sir Andrew Green said:
“It is, in fact, impossible to take students out of net migration because, unlike the US and Australia, we still have no exit checks so nobody knows how many who came as students have actually left the UK. It seems that business leaders are clueless about immigration policy and will sign whatever is put in front of them.”
Notes to Editors:
Genuine Temporary Entrant Requirement to Australia, URL: http://www.immi.gov.au/students/_pdf/2011-genuine-temporary-entrant.pdf
Home Office Analysis of Pilot Scheme on Student Credibility, URL: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/science-research-statistics/research-statistics/immigration-asylum-research/occ104?view=Binary
Before entry Student Visa Grants by Country, 2011, URL: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/science-research-statistics/research-statistics/immigration-asylum-research/immigration-tabs-q1-2012/before-entry-q1-2012-tabs?view=Binary