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Visas: European Union Students

Volume 800: debated on Monday 4 November 2019


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what guidance they have given to universities recruiting European Union students on courses longer than three years concerning the eligibility of such students for a visa for the duration of their studies.

My Lords, the Government will continue to welcome all international students who wish to study in our world-leading higher education sector after we leave the EU. We will ensure that there are visa arrangements in place to allow all EEA students who start studying a course in the UK after we leave the EU to complete their course, whether we leave with or without a deal.

My Lords, at the moment there is no guarantee beyond the three years of the European temporary leave to remain visa, and many university programmes are four years or more: the Scottish university courses, medicine, dentistry, many part-time courses and so on. What reassurance can the Government give that these students will definitely be able to complete courses that go beyond three years? If they cannot do so, is this not every encouragement for those much-needed EU students to choose to study in other countries?

It is pleasing to note that the number of students from EEA and non-EEA countries who come to this country to study continues to rise. There is no suggestion that those on courses longer than three years will be unable to complete them. Those with Euro TLR will be able to make an application under the student route before their leave expires.

My Lords, does the Minister share my concern at the report in the Times today about the number of students coming to independent schools and colleges from Vietnam who seem to have disappeared after they have attended for one term? Apparently paying one term’s fees and then disappearing is cheaper than paying the traffickers.

The noble Lord highlights that it is very important that the student sponsor route is a secure one. For that reason, certain universities have a much easier process than others. Of course, we did in the past root out and close down bogus colleges which were responsible for a huge amount of illegal migration.

My Lords, looking at this from the other direction, how would the Government advise British students who wish to study or continue their studies elsewhere in Europe for whatever length of time? Is official guidance available that they can access?

I hope that the British Government would encourage British students who decided to study in the EU or elsewhere to continue. I do not think that there is going to be any impediment to that.

Given that many EU students will no longer be eligible for fee loans and therefore will not be able to study here in the medium term, do the Government intend to restore Chevening scholarships for MA students? How much money will be put behind this and how many students are likely to benefit?

The noble Baroness has asked me a very niche question to which I do not know the answer. I have never heard of a Chevening scholarship.

I congratulate my noble friend on the proposal to extend the time that graduates of UK universities can stay in the UK from four or five months to two years. When is this likely to take place?

I am very happy to accept the congratulations from my noble friend. I understand that the extension will be in place next year.

My Lords, I looked on GOV.UK to see what the answer might be to my noble friend’s Question. It tells us that after three years, students, among others, will have to apply under the new Australian points-based system. There are a lot of questions that one might ask about this. One is whether the Government think that such a new system can be presented as now definite and whether it is intended to be introduced by ministerial fiat, bypassing Parliament.

I do not think there is much that can bypass Parliament these days. Perhaps I might apologise for saying to my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe that the scheme is to be implemented next year; it will actually be in 2021, the year after next.

My Lords, does the Minister not agree that a much simpler way to approach this, and one which it could be hoped that the Government —whoever form it after the election—would embrace, is to make it clear that any student who receives a clear offer of a place at a British university registered under the Higher Education Act will be admitted to this country?

My Lords, the system that we have at the moment works very well, and the number of students coming to this country is clear proof of this.

My Lords, the Minister will be aware that we have something in the region of 110,000 Chinese students at our universities. In some universities, they take up almost 50% of the places on courses such as those on artificial intelligence, stealth technology and quantum mechanics. Is she concerned that we are not clear about, or aware of, exactly where some of these students have come from? For example, postgraduates are paying £50,000 to do the courses. There are therefore risks of technology being sucked away from this country.

My Lords, we have to recognise the value of research carried out by our world-leading UK universities. They are autonomous institutions; they are responsible for protecting their research and ensuring that their international student recruitment follows sustainable patterns. To help support the sector, the Government recently created Trusted Research, which is a body of information providing bespoke advice for universities to protect their research.