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Tough new visa rules will harm FE colleges, claims AoC

Strict new rules being imposed on educational institutions sponsoring students from outside the European Union will harm FE colleges more than universities, it has been claimed.

Today the government announced that from November, tougher rules will be introduced for universities and colleges who sponsor international students to study in the UK as part of a wider crackdown on immigration abuse.

Currently, educational institutions cannot enjoy highly trusted sponsor status – a recognition that they are complying with visa rules - if 20 per cent or more of the individuals they have been offered places are refused visas.

But that figure will be cut to 10 per cent in November after a three month transitional period for colleges and universities to re-examine their admissions procedures before offering individuals places.

Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said the measure would hit colleges harder than universities.

“Entry clearance officers are often unfamiliar with further education colleges and the types of courses they offer,” he said.

“This means people hoping to study at an FE college are sometimes refused entry to the UK. This happens less than with universities.

 “We are concerned that reducing the proportion of applicants who can be refused a visa to 10 per cent, which can trigger the loss of highly trusted status, might detrimentally effect colleges more than universities, not because they don’t take the care to ensure students are genuine, but because the system is unfairly structured and there is a lack of understanding from entry clearance officers.”

 Home Secretary Theresa May said the new rules were designed to build immigration system that is fair to British citizens and legitimate migrants, but tough on those who abuse it or flout the law.

“The Immigration Act is a landmark piece of legislation that will make Britain a less attractive place for those who come here for the wrong reasons, and allow us to remove more people when they have no right to remain,” she said.

“We will always act when we see abuse of our immigration system. And that is why we are tightening the rules to cut out abuse in the student visa system.

“These reforms are helping to deliver what we have always promised – to build an immigration system that truly works in the national interest.”

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