The government has been accused of rushing plans to change the regulations on student visas. The Home Affairs Committee has expressed concerns that the restrictions could affect the economy—costing it £3.4 billion. These concerns are in line with official calculations.
The new measures would cut immigration of students by 230,000 before the end of the current government’s reign. Immigration minister Damian Green defended the move, saying the changes had already had much consultation. Earlier this year, ministers had announced cuts in the numbers of student visas as a part of targets to decrease immigration to only tens of thousands.
The proposed changes include tougher English language tests, higher regulations for private colleges, and stricter rules about when students and dependents can work. Currently 250,000 students come from abroad in the UK—the plan hopes to decrease this number to 75,000.
Twelve weeks after the revelation of the proposals, information detailing the financial effects of these changes was published. Savings in areas of health, UKBA investigations, crime, education, and other public services, could be £1.1 billion. However, the cost of cutting numbers could be up to £3.5 billion.
Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, Keith Vaz, expressed concern about what he believes to be a rushed policy, despite potential costs to the economy. He said, “The Home Secretary’s dismissal of the impact assessment is very disappointing. The government appears to be not only making policy without adequate immigration statistics, but also ignoring its own evidence. We reiterate the need for an immigration policy which is both evidence-based and does not adversely affect the British economy.”
Damian Green, immigration minister blamed the potential problems on the previous government, saying that they had “inherited” the crisis in the immigration system and had to take action quickly.
The Scottish Affairs Committee separately said that changes in student visas would be a problem for Scotland, saying, “These proposals will have a disproportionate effect in Scotland, both because of the disproportionate size of the sector in Scotland and as they are primarily designed to address a problem which is largely insignificant in Scotland.
“In doing so, these proposals risk compromising and diminishing not only the high standard of education provided by higher education institutions in Scotland but also threaten the valuable contribution of the international students who study at these institutions, to Scottish society.”
If these changes affect the economy, it could be problematic for recovery. Focus should be paid on cutting costs for now in every area possible.