UK may raise English language requirements for foreign students

The UK is likely to implement stricter English language requirements in a bid to reduce student immigration for below degree level courses. If the measures are put in place, tens of thousands of potential students would no longer meet the UK student visa requirements.

According to government statistics, over 60 percent of non-EU migrants enter the UK under student visas. The UK Government wants to reduce net immigration to tens of thousands instead of hundreds of thousands of people annually. The UK Government thinks that targetting student immigration will reduce the overall levels of immigration.

A signifcant percentage of people who immigrate to the UK are citizens of the European Union. The UK Government is required to allow free movement of labour for EU citizens under EU law. The only way in which to reduce overall levesl of immigration is to try and cut non-EU immigration.

"We want a student visa system which encourages the entry of genuine students coming to study legitimate courses – that means students who are equipped to study their courses," said Home Secretary Theresa May.

Currently, students studying at below degree level must show that they can speak English at intermediary level B1 under the Common European Framework Reference. The UK Government would like to raise that level to B2, or "upper-intermediary" level.

Most UK universities will remain unaffected by increasing the language requirement to B2, as they already require students to speak and understand English at that level. However, many private, pre-degree level colleges with lower entry requirements would likely see a large decrease in revenue.