Non European Union students wishing to study in the UK could face tougher visa conditions after it emerged that more than one in four entering the country last year were not genuine.
A study by think tank Migration Watch using officially gathered information found that some 60,000 bogus students may have entered the country last year.
It is likely to create further demands for a further toughening of the student regime as there is also concern about the numbers who stay on illegally after their studies have finished.
The results showed nearly half of all applicants from Pakistan should have been refused, nearly 60% from India, one third of those from China and 62% from Burma.
‘We now have clear evidence of abuse on a major scale. Bogus students come here to work illegally and thus take jobs from British workers. If it is clear from the circumstances that a student is unlikely to go home, the visa should not be granted in the first place,’ said Sir Andrew Green, chairman of MigrationWatch.
In 2000 around 54,000 non EU students entered the UK to study but by last year this figure had increased to 201,000.
Faced with budget cuts and dwindling number of domestic student applicants because of high fees, many British universities are actively seeking more international students to boost numbers. Higher education chiefs claim that a reduction in overseas students could cost the country billions of pounds in lost income.
But Green said that if the government is serious about reducing immigration is must tackle the issue of bogus students and those who stay on after their visas have expired.
Over the weekend, it emerged that London Metropolitan University had its licence to bring in non EU students suspended because of Home Office concerns over its handling of applicants.
Migration Watch’s figures were obtained from a Home Office commissioned study that conducted thousands of interviews with applicants from around the world. Applicants were tested on their ability to speak and write English, quizzed on whether they actually intended to study and not work, and asked if they intended to return home afterwards.
As a result of the study the Home Office will start next month interviewing around 10,000 suspect student applicants a year. But the question on whether a student intends to return home has been dropped.
Green said that not asking if students intended to return home after their studies was a serious error and he pointed out that in Australia, regarded as a good example of student immigration control, it is regarded as the most important question.
‘After all, many of the advantages claimed for foreign students depend on their going home after their studies. These half measures simply will not do. The government have bottled out on bogus students,’ he added.