In the midst of a debate about their handling of international students in order to reach immigration targets, the UK government has praised a new short-term visa system.
The SVV allows non-EEA students to study in the UK for up to 6 months (or 11 months in the case of extended visas). Students who have been applying for these short-stay visas include those from key, traditional sources of international students like China and India. A recent study has shown that most of these students are coming to the UK as part of exchange programmes, or to study language courses. In some cases they returning home long before they have to.
It is the kind of immigration activity which the government are happy to promote right now. Meanwhile they continue to defend their decision to focus on tighter controls on international students in order to reduce immigration numbers in the long term. Cutting out abuse of the system has been a consistent message by the government over the last year or so, with prospective international students paying the heaviest price (through new interviews and checks, and the abolishment of the UKBA).
Interestingly, while the Home Office do not include these Student Visitor Visa numbers in overall immigration numbers, they do include international student numbers; hence why they have recently been able to report such a significant drop in immigrant numbers. They have faced a lot of opposition from those who believe international student numbers should not be included in this figure, including leaders in the education sector who see the economic potential in study abroad students.
On the bright side, students who come to the UK on these short-term stays, are satisfying the government’s pursuit of serious, skilled students (as opposed to those who seek out immigration over education). Furthermore, they can establish contacts, skills and experience which can all come in useful if they wish to apply to study in the UK for longer than a few months, in the near future.