Home Office and business department do battle over overseas students

Government ambitions to dramatically expand the number of private colleges risk being defeated by an overzealous Home Office crackdown on immigration.

Rules banning foreign students at private institutions from working part-time have led to a 70 per cent drop in applications, a damning report warns today. CentreForum, the liberal think tank, warns at least one respected college has already closed while "others are having to retrench or be taken over by public universities".

The report will say the impact of the changes "has been swift and probably even more devastating than was predicted".

It pitches the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) – which wants to open up the private sector to more UK students – against the Home Office, which has boasted of shutting what it claims are "bogus colleges" since the coalition was formed.

BIS ministers are fearful that the get-tough stance is deterring overseas students from learning in Britain, and that many bona fide, reputable colleges will also have to shut.

Chris Nicholson, the report's author and CentreForum chief executive, said: "The student visa controls make a mockery of the Government's aim to promote greater diversity in higher education. The private sector is being critically undermined."

It is feared that the crackdown will mean that thousands of students from India, China and South America will abandon plans to study in Britain, opting for other English-speaking nations, including Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

Many reputable institutions have welcomed tougher rules under Tier 4 of the points-based system for foreign students, including obtaining Highly Trusted Sponsor status and degree students being able to speak English at upper-intermediate level.

Officials at the Department for Business believe it is "only fair" to treat those private colleges who pass the tests in the same way as state-funded institutions. "There should be a level playing field," a source said, adding that good colleges had been caught up in the "collateral damage" of the Home Office eagerness to appear tough on immigration.

Announcing a shake-up of student visas in March last year, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, announced that only students at publicly funded colleges and universities could work part-time. "Students who want to come here should be able to speak English, to support themselves financially without taking paid employment, and to show that they are coming for study, not for work."

Alex Proudfoot, from Study UK, which represents the UK independent college sector, said that there was a "tension" in the Government's conflicting policies. While figures are not collected centrally, it is thought that at least 30 have shut in the last year, he added.

"One of the driving forces behind all of these changes is the Conservative Party's manifesto commitment to reduce net immigration to tens of thousands, and international students represent the largest stream of non-EU migrants to the UK, if counted as such."

"Of the colleges who would be best placed to offer the alternative in years to come, there is a danger that, if they don't survive the next year or two because their existing income streams and markets have been squashed, they won't be around to liberate the market. There is certainly a tension there."

The CentreForum research is expected to be crucial to the case put by David Willetts, the Universities minister, in arguing with the Home Office that the rules need to be looked at again. To date, evidence from the private sector has been poor.

The coalition's Higher Education Bill was expected to pave the way for a major expansion in the private sector market in further and higher education, but last week it emerged that it may not appear in the Queen's Speech in May.

CASE STUDY

Cavendish College, which was founded in 1985 and at its peak had 850 students on its books, is the most high-profile casualty of the changes so far. Offering diploma and degree programmes mainly to international students, it was forced to close in December. Its principal, Dr John Sanders, has been trying to help hundreds of students into other colleges to finish their courses.

"When they first introduced the points-based system it was something a lot of good colleges supported. It soon became apparent that rather than a targeted approach on bogus colleges, it was a machine gun approach. It seems as if it was easier to shoot everyone down and see who was standing at the end of it.

"Withdrawal of these part-time work rights has really killed off recruitment for private colleges. They are cleaning out a lot of good colleges as well as the bad. The attitude from the UK Border Agency is 'we don't care, you are a threat we are going to shut you down'.

"BIS wants to expand higher education provision but UKBA are not allowing the private sector to make that contribution."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Martin of Coldplay performs live for fans at Enmore Theatre on June 19, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
music
Sport
Dave Mackay lifts the FA Cup in 1967 having skippered Spurs to victory
football
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
Jihadi John
newsMonikers like 'Jihadi John' make the grim sound glamorous
Arts and Entertainment
As depicted in Disney's Robin Hood, King John was cowardly, cruel, avaricious and incompetent
film
Life and Style
Travis Kalanick, the co-founder of Uber, is now worth $5.3bn
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

WORLDbytes: Two-Day Intensive Camera training and Shoot: Saturday 7th & Sunday 8th March

expenses on shoots: WORLDbytes: Volunteering with a media based charity,for a ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 4 Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: A school in Tameside is currently l...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teaching Assistant

£50 - £70 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Tradewind are currently looking for ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn