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Visa changes hit teen learners

VISA CHINA frkstyle

Overseas 16–18-year-olds lose right to enrol in state-funded schools, reports Melanie Butler

A change in UK immigration rules, reported in the press as removing work rights from international students at state-funded further education (FE) colleges, appears to also hit a wide range of provision for 16–18-year-olds. The main changes, based on the information provided in a statement by immigration minister James Brokenshire to the House of Commons, and the new rules laid before parliament shortly before going to press, are outlined below.

Work rights

Students at state-funded FE colleges will lose the right to work ten hours a week, bringing them into line with the private sector. A Home Office statement to the press that work rights were removed because ‘officials had detected early signs of increased fraud at some publicly funded colleges’ was not referred to by the minister.

At the time of going to press the Home Office had not responded to the request by Association of Colleges (AoC) head Martin Doel to provide evidence of this fraud.

International students will also lose the right to enrol in state-funded schools, which previously they were able to do for the last two years of school, known as the sixth form. The AoC believes they will retain the right to enrol in state-funded sixth-form colleges, traditionally part of the FE sector, though they will also lose work rights.

International students enrolled at universities and other degree-awarding institutions will retain their work rights.

General further education

Students in all forms of FE, private and state sector, will be limited to study visas of two years. Those wishing to progress to a university or other form of further studies will be required to apply for a new student visa from outside the UK unless they are enrolled at an ‘embedded college’, defined as a private-sector on-campus pathway.

Students studying for a foundation-year qualification will not be able to enter under a Tier 4 (child) visa and, except for those in an embedded college, will have to leave the country and reapply at the end of the course.

The situation for students doing a foundation course run by a university itself on a university campus remains unclear. Universities UK told the Gazette that it understood that these would also be exempt from the need to reapply from overseas.

Independent Schools

Only students applying to an independent school will be able to apply on a Tier 4 visa, which does not limit pre-university study to two years or prevent them from applying for a student visa from the UK.

The definition of an independent school in the new immigration rules is one which is not state funded and is:

(a) in England and Wales at which full time education is provided for five or more pupils of compulsory school age (whether or not such education is also provided at it for pupils under or over that age);

(b) in Scotland at which full-time education is provided for pupils of school age (whether or not such education is also provided for pupils under or over that age); or

(c) in Northern Ireland that has been registered with the Department of Education.

Asked whether an educational institution specialising in pre-university qualifications but enrolling students from 14 or 15 and accredited by the relevant national bodies as a school would be considered an independent school, a Home Office spokesperson was not sure. He would only say that courses such as A Level and IB, which are considered education courses for home students, might be considered further education for international students. Study UK, which represents the private FE sector, told the Gazette the exact courses seen as coming under the further education regulations would only become clear when the guidelines were issued.

Most of the new immigration rules are due to come into effect in August.

Pic courtesy: frkstyle