A number of British universities are no longer trying to recruit students from parts of the world considered ‘high risk’ for immigration offences, the National Union of Students (NUS) says.
It comes after universities have suffered from a rise in UK visa refusals for students from countries including India, Pakistan and Nigeria. Universities are now reluctant to recruit from these areas because if 10 per cent of an institution’s visa applications are rejected, it could lose its sponsorship licence.
The issue was highlighted by NUS international students’ officer, Mostafa Rajaai, at the Westminster Higher Education Forum in London. He said that applicants saw the new trend as “racial discrimination” and it was unfair that prospective students were being punished because previous students from their countries had failed to return home, The Times Higher Education supplement reported.
Mr Rajaai said: “A lot of universities are now not offering places to students from certain countries, especially Pakistan and Nigeria. Prospective students from these countries have a very negative view of the UK now. They think this is racial discrimination.”
Government figures show that interviews were carried out with almost 250,000 prospective students from non-EU countries in the last two years. Of these, nine per cent of applicants were turned down. In the first three months of last year, 15 per cent were rejected but the figure fell to just five per cent in the second quarter of this year.
Palm Tatlow from the Mission+ group said the fall could be due to universities pulling back from recruiting in certain countries due to their expectations that potential students would be refused UK visas.
She said: “This is rational behaviour by universities but it is not good for international higher education exports and UK soft power.”