According to a new Universities UK report, visa reforms are essential to prevent a dip in EU exchange students in the future. Currently, short-term exchange students can stay in the UK for only six months. UUK seeks an extension of the visa period to one academic year. The country needs to have the right immigration conditions to boost global student exchanges, but the current norms are likely to cause a decrease in EU exchange students.

The UUK report suggests that the visa requirements in the new points-based immigration system could hinder exchanges with global partners. Previous statistics of the last five years show that 73% of EU exchange students stayed in the country between 24 weeks and a year as they were not subject to immigration requirements. However, only 55% of non-EU nationals stayed for the duration as they had to follow immigration requirements.

With the new immigration system, students wanting to stay in the UK for more than six months have to spend three times more on a student visa. They also have to pay £470 annually as an immigration health surcharge. Additionally, the language requirements are stringent as students must have a CEFR B2 level to qualify.  These factors make longer placements less attractive for students from the EU.

Experts state that some 12,900 students, representing a third of total exchange students per annum, may cut short of the length of their exchange. Even worse, they may skip the UK as their exchange destination due to the new immigration requirements. Short-term exchange students are crucial for the UK as they serve economic benefits, strengthen global links, and enhance international opportunities for UK-based students.

According to the current exchange partnerships, UK students get more spaces abroad if the country hosts more incoming students. Maintaining or increasing the incoming numbers is the key to the success of the Turing Scheme. Without inbound students, UK universities will lose opportunities for outbound visits. So the government should ensure that the visa system is favourable for incoming exchange students.

The six-month limit is detrimental for students from lower socio-economic backgrounds as the alternative visa types are out of their reach. Besides being affordable, extended visas will give students extra time to settle in the country. They will be in a better place to engage and contribute to the local community. Extending the student visitor visa length is expected to deliver immense financial benefit by adding to the existing annual estimation of £470 million.

Most importantly, a reform to the visitor immigration route will make the UK an attractive destination to study abroad. It is the need of the hour as other countries are struggling to stay strong in the international education market. The reform will come as an inclusive solution for short-term study visitors as well.

If you are considering studying abroad why don’t you discuss your prospects and opportunities with experts at Lurnable’s dedicated study abroad counselling division LurnPathways?

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