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New UK Visa Regulations Will Affect International Student Recruitment

By Laura T

Updated March 5, 2016 Updated March 5, 2016

UK universities and colleges that sponsor international students to study in the UK will be subject to tougher rules from November 2014, as part of new UK visa regulations set out by the Home Office. UK universities, colleges and schools, both public and private, currently on the Tier 4 sponsor register will be affected.

These new UK visa regulations come as part of the government’s wider efforts to control immigration and clamp down on visa abuse. Writing in an article in The Telegraph, Prime Minister David Cameron said the current coalition government had so far closed down over 750 bogus colleges and were continuing to focus on ensuring institutions properly vet their international student recruitment process.

“Today we are announcing a further step to make sure colleges do proper checks on students,” David Cameron explained in the article. “If 10% of those they recruit are refused visas, they will lose their license.”

More rigorous vetting of international applicants

This change will force UK universities to be more thorough in their approach to international student recruitment, making a commitment to ensure each applicant has a true intention of studying, the financial means to complete their studies, and possession of all the required qualifications and documents.

A discretionary approach is being taken with UK universities and colleges recruiting less than 50 international students a year, and administrative errors will not be included when assessing which institutions exceed the permitted visa refusal rate of 10%.

Intentions to revise UK visa regulations were hinted at back in February of this year when MP James Brokenshire assumed the role of immigration minister. In his first speech, Brokenshire described the current 20% limit for institutions on visa refusals as “too generous” and went on to say that the vast majority of respected education institutions are not even close to this figure.

Dominic Scott of UKCISA in disagreement

The CEO of the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA), Dominic Scott, disagrees with the new UK visa regulations, calling them “draconian” and warning that they may put some smaller institutions at risk of closing. Scott told The PIE News; “Refusal rates are often out of the control of an institution, as students can have visas refused either on subjective ‘credibility’ grounds or just for a missing or incorrect piece of paperwork. The fear is also that FE colleges – which are often the pipeline into our universities – may be particularly hit by this.”

He concluded, “The move is therefore unfortunate and largely unnecessary and we obviously regret it.” However, he did note that the UK visa regulations at least allowed institutions a three-month transitional period in which to re-examine their international student recruitment procedures and ensure they are able to keep within the new limit.

This article was originally published in July 2014 . It was last updated in March 2016

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Laura is a former staff writer for, providing advice and guidance for students on a range of topics helping them to choose where to study, get admitted and find funding and scholarships. A graduate of Queen Mary University of London, Laura also blogs about student life.