UK bill threatens foreign students, says student union

The UK's new Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill that is being presented to the House of Lords, could see International students lose their right to appeal against decisions about their right to stay in the UK.

The Bill will mean that if a foreign student is denied the right to change their visa conditions, they can no longer appeal against the decision. The new Bill seems to be badly timed, as the Chancellor has pledged to ease the financial burden on these students. Gordon Brown had hoped boost the declining number of students coming to the UK, as fees have spiralled to some of the most expensive in the world.

The real implications of the new Bill will be that foreign students could become 'overstayers' if they are unable to appeal against visa decisions. Under these circumstances students would be at risk of having an 'illegal' stamp on their passports, which would impact on future study opportunities, benefits or could even result in prison or deportation.

The International Students' Officer of the National Union of Students (NUS), Benson Osawe said: "I believe the right to pursue an education or training must be upheld. I also believe the Home Office decision-making is often poor, as one third of appeals against refusal of leave succeed. International Students will be put off coming to study in the UK if the Home Office keep on sending them unwelcoming messages, at a time when competition to attract international students is high from countries such as Canada, Australia, or the new Asian universities."

The reaction of the NUS to the incentives proposed by the Chancellor is an indication of how important International students are to the UK education system. In simple financial terms alone many colleges and universities would find it difficult to run if the numbers of these students were to take a significant drop.

There is also a question of prestige, the reputation of gaining a qualification from a UK institution has always been seen as a quality benchmark around the world. If students start going to America, Canada or Australia to study the currency of UK education may be damaged irreparably, as will our institutions.