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Overseas Students

Volume 496: debated on Thursday 16 July 2009

10. What his latest estimate is of the number of overseas students in universities; and if he will make a statement. (287059)

According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, in total, there were 112,150 non-UK EU students and 229,640 from elsewhere studying in UK higher education institutions in 2007-08.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Gosh, we have reached question 10 and it is only just 11 o’clock!

Given the additional administrative and legal requirements that the Government have placed on all universities for the handling of visa requirements for overseas students, does the Minister recognise that there is additional complexity and inconsistency in the way in which these applications are handled in the various home countries? There is also the length of the appeal process to consider and the fact that if a foreign student studying at a university in Britain has to apply for an extension, they now have to go via the UK Border Agency at an average individual cost of £357. Does not all that cut against the university policy encouraged by the Government to win more overseas students to the UK generally?

The hon. Gentleman is right that there has been concern in the higher education sector about the new points-based system. We have worked consistently, particularly with Universities UK, to address those concerns. I am pleased that application rates are now equivalent to last year’s levels and that the number of refusals has come down. There will be a meeting next week on 20 July between university vice-chancellors and the UK Border Agency to address any outstanding concerns, but there have been regular discussions and progress is being made as we make this transition.