The Foreign Secretary is reportedly backing away from plans announced in October to only allow “the best universities” to let overseas students to remain in the UK to work following graduation.
Amber Rudd spoke about the proposals at the Conservative party conference last month. She also suggested only universities with a good track record of making sure their graduates returned home at the end of their student visas would be able to benefit from a revised scheme.
However, sources told The Times that she is worried about embroiling herself in another immigration row, similar to the one that surrounded her suggestions that businesses should produce lists of their foreign workers. As a result, the planned consultation on student visas will not appear until the New Year.
Universities are concerned about the effects on their finances as the UK’s increasingly tough student visa policies put off international students from applying to study in Britain.
The consultation is likely to look at a range of options, one of which is ranking universities by the quality of their teaching and basing how many visas they are allowed to issue on that criteria.
However, universities have warned that they may take legal action if the Government tries to use information to assess teaching quality to decide immigration policies.
There are concerns that a number of universities, such as the London School of Economics – where seven out of 10 students come from overseas – may not be sufficiently highly ranked using this system.
Another is to allow students studying ‘strategically important’ courses at ‘non-elite’ universities to issue more post study work visas.
The source said: “One question being considered is whether there are courses where it is beneficial to the UK economy to allow all universities to incentivise foreign students with the chance to stay and work.”