Visas: European Union Students - Question

– in the House of Lords at 3:04 pm on 4th November 2019.

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Photo of Baroness Garden of Frognal Baroness Garden of Frognal Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 3:04 pm, 4th November 2019

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.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

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.

Photo of Baroness Garden of Frognal Baroness Garden of Frognal Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

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?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

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.

Photo of Lord Tomlinson Lord Tomlinson Labour

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.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

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.

Photo of The Earl of Clancarty The Earl of Clancarty Crossbench

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?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

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.

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Labour

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?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

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.

Noble Lords:

Oh!

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

I am not going to pretend that I have, but I will try to get an answer for the noble Baroness.

Photo of Baroness Neville-Rolfe Baroness Neville-Rolfe Conservative

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?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

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

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Immigration)

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.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

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.

Photo of Lord Hannay of Chiswick Lord Hannay of Chiswick Crossbench

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?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

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.

Photo of Lord West of Spithead Lord West of Spithead Labour

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.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

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.