The government’s new points-based immigration policy is set to have a marked effect on the higher education system.
Students seeking to study in the UK will be required to speak English, to show that they have an offer from an approved educational institution, and that they can support themselves financially.
EU citizens applying for student visas will be treated in the same way as applicants from outside the bloc.
The new regulations come into force on January 1 next year.
Salary thresholds will prevent colleges and universities from recruiting the staff they need to educate our students
– NUS president Zamzam Ibrahim
“It is clear the government has not listened to the concerns of students in establishing this new points-based immigration system,” said NUS president Zamzam Ibrahim.
“While the reinstatement of two-year post-study work visas was a positive step, by introducing financial thresholds for EU students it will close off access to the UK’s higher education system to all but the richest international students.
“All EU students must continue to have access to student finance if we are to meet the government’s own target of attracting 600,000 students to the UK by 2030.”
The new system reduces the salary threshold by which a worker qualifies for a ‘skilled’ visa from £30,000 to £25,600.
Regarding university roles with salaries below the threshold, Home Office guidance says: “A university researcher in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subject wishing to come to the UK on a salary of £22,000 may still be able to enter the UK if they have a relevant PhD in a STEM subject.
“[If overseas workers] earn less than the required minimum salary threshold, but no less than £20,480, they may still be able to come if they can demonstrate that they have a job offer in a specific shortage occupation, as designated by the Migration Advisory Committee, or that they have a PhD relevant to the job.”
In response, Ibrahim insisted that “any minimum salary threshold must be scrapped”.
“Governments over the last decade have created precarious employment in our universities and colleges,” she added.
“Salary thresholds will prevent colleges and universities from recruiting the staff they need to educate our students and deny future students the opportunity to learn from those with international backgrounds.
“It has already been estimated that 70% of the existing EU workforce would not meet the requirements of the skilled worker route which will create a staffing crisis as universities will not be able to recruit early-career researchers.
“This new system will also prohibit the best international students from graduating into the entrepreneurial, charitable and creative industries, and any public sector not deemed valuable by our government.”
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