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Student Visas (English Language Teaching)

Volume 532: debated on Monday 12 September 2011

4. What recent assessment she has made of the potential effects on English language teaching centres of changes to the Tier 4 (General) Student visa accreditation scheme. (70928)

As part of our fundamental reforms to the student visa regime, we are tightening the system of educational oversight for institutions that bring international students to the UK. Colleges must have a satisfactory review by the end of 2012 in order to sponsor new students from overseas. That will have an impact on colleges that do not meet the high standards set by the inspection bodies.

I recently visited International House in my constituency, where students from around the world acquire an understanding not only of the English language but of Newcastle’s rich cultural heritage. However, the school faces a sharp drop in applications because of the changes, and in addition a 1,500% increase in the cost of accreditation. In these difficult times, should the Minister not be supporting legitimate schools and not trying to drive them underground?

Let me deal directly with the hon. Lady’s question about accreditation. The previous system failed. It was not rigorous enough, so we are moving to more rigorous inspections, carried out by bodies that have previously inspected the sector, including the Independent Schools Inspectorate. It is vital that we get the inspection of colleges right; otherwise, respectable institutions that deserve to be able to carry on get muddled up with the bogus colleges to which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has referred, and that does nobody any good—neither the respectable colleges nor genuine students seeking to come here. I hope that the hon. Lady would welcome the fact that we have introduced a better and more rigorous inspection system.