UK immigration minister says UK universities unharmed by Tier 4 visa crackdown

Mark Harper, the UK's immigration minister, has said that the UK's university sector has continued to attract 'the brightest and the best' international students and has not been harmed by changes to the Tier 4 visa system carried out by UK immigration authorities.

Mr Harper was speaking to The Pie, an online educational magazine. He said 'We are not harming genuine students. More university students are coming here and bogus students are being kept out. There is no limit on the number of students who can come to the UK.'

When the UK's Coalition government came to power in 2010, it pledged to cut immigration and to crack down on abuses of the system. In his interview, Mr Harper admitted that the number of Tier 4 student visas granted had fallen by around 20% in 2012, but he said that this was due to a fall in non-University students. There had actually been an increase of 1% in the number of students from outside the European Economic Area studying at UK universities over the same period.

Colleges 'sold immigration not education' - Harper

The fall in the number of visas, he said, therefore was caused by the fact that 500 further education colleges had either lost or failed to renew their Tier 4 sponsor licences, effectively barring them from teaching non-EEA students in future. Mr Harper said that, in the past, too many colleges had 'sold immigration not education'. He said that his government was right to act to stop the abuse of the system.

There was a fall of about 25% in the number of students applying to study in the UK from India and Pakistan in 2012. Mr Harper said that the outlook for the future was good. He said there had been a rise of some 9.6% in applications to study at UK universities from non-EEA students according to the latest figures from the UK's Universities admissions body UCAS which were released in January 2013.

Mr Harper said 'Numbers from India and China have seen big increases. This shows that, despite stories to the contrary, [international] students continue to want to come to the UK to study at our world class universities…By protecting the reputation of the British education system, we will be able to compete in a global race'.

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