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International student update

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Locking the front door? International students update


Major changes have been made to the Immigration Rules for international students, in line with the Government’s stated aim of “breaking the link” between study, work and settlement in the UK.

The changes are also unashamedly directed at reducing the controversial net migration figures, in spite of continuous argument by education and business representatives that students as a group should be lifted outside the calculation altogether. The rhetoric also continues to stress “tackling abuse”, and a “back door” to work in the UK.

As Canada looks set to be one country that could benefit from international talent discouraged from coming to the UK, one Canadian commentator notes that “International education is not a ‘back door’. For a host country, it’s the smartest front door in the world.”[1]

Here are just three of the most significant changes, due to come into force in “the autumn”:


Continuing studies

Tier 4 students in colleges at course levels equivalent to NQF 3-5 will be restricted to 2 years of study at this level instead of the current 3 years.

Students in colleges will also be unable to extend their leave in the UK for further study unless they are already at a college that is “embedded” in providing a “pathway” programme in preparation for study at an approved Higher Education institution.

Students will not be allowed to remain in the UK to study at the same academic level unless their university confirms that the course is “linked to” previous study, or that it “supports the student’s career aspirations”.


Working during and after studies

Students in public colleges will lose their right to work in the UK in line with restrictions already in place for private college students. Tier 4 students at all colleges will be unable to switch into work immigration categories from inside the UK after they complete their studies.

Although this change does not yet affect university graduates, it seems to be an indication of the direction of travel. Tier 2 sponsors concerned about the supply of international graduate talent should make sure that they respond to the MAC consultation now underway. Click here.


Maintenance funds

The “established presence” rules, which allowed students with existing leave in the UK to show reduced maintenance funds in some cases has been abolished. All students will have to show maintenance funds to cover the remainder of their course or 9 months, whichever is shorter.

From September 2015, maintenance funds will also increase in line with grant and loan funding provided to English students, and the area defined as “London” (where higher rates apply) will be increased. Rates for dependants will be increased in line.

You can read the changes in full at:

If you are affected by the changes, or if you have any other questions about immigration to the UK, please contact Kitty Falls at our Southampton office.