£25m blow of drop in foreign students

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UNIVERSITY bosses in Sheffield have warned tough new immigration rules for students could damage the region’s economy by an estimated £25 million a year.

Foreign students at Sheffield’s two universities currently bring £160m to South Yorkshire each year, paying £70m in tuition fees and spending another £90m on housing and living costs.

But vice-chancellors of The University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University say proposed changes to immigration rules have already resulted in reduced applications from overseas students.

Student leaders in the city are also campaigning on the issue, and are especially angry undergraduates already studying in the city will have their rights reduced.

The Government wants to impose tougher English language requirements on overseas students, restrict their ability to work while studying, and limit graduates’ ability to bring in dependants.

Ministers have proposed restricting student visas to those studying at degree level and above, which will have a massive effect on language schools and foundation courses.

In a joint letter to MPs, Sheffield University vice-chancellor Keith Burnett and Hallam vice-chancellor Philip Jones said the proposals would seriously harm their ability to recruit overseas.

They said: “If the changes are implemented as proposed, there will be very significant impacts on our international student recruitment efforts with immediate loss of income for both the universities in Sheffield, running into tens of millions of pounds.”

International students currently generate 12 per cent or £50m of Sheffield University’s income. Around 10 per cent of students at Hallam are from overseas, generating £20.5m.

The university bosses said foreign applications are already dipping. Hallam’s applications from Sri Lanka dropped 50 per cent this year.

They said prospective students said they did not apply because of a perception it was too hard to get a UK visa.

The vice-chancellors appealed for the Home Office to reconsider its proposals and “develop robust and workable student immigration procedures which support the continued success of Sheffield’s universities”.

“The Home Office proposals will seriously undermine the global competitiveness of our higher education sector.”

Their campaign is backed by Rotherham MP Denis MacShane, who wrote to Universities Minister David Willetts.

Close to 5,000 students from outside the EU attend The University of Sheffield. Student union international officer Mina Kasherova said: “The biggest concern of the students I represent is around the right to work after completing a degree.

“People have come to the UK in good faith on the basis they could stay for two years to gain experience. This opportunity is now being taken away from them.”