British MPs, cutting across party lines, have called for abolition of the English language criteria for international students, particularly from non-European Union (EU) countries, contending it would hurt not only the country's economy but also its reputation as a leader in higher education.
The Early Day Motion (a motion seeking a debate on the issue soon), moved by prominent Liberal Democrat MPs, Stephen Lloyd, Julian Huppert, Andrew George, Mark Williams, Adrian Sanders and Mike Hancock describes the criteria, introduced March this year by the then Labour government, as "rushed and flawed".
The regulations stipulate that students from outside the EU who want to study in Britain for more than six months need to have an intermediate level of English before they come. The Gordon Brown government had argued that the step would deter bogus students.
The motion, filed last week, says: "It will discourage an estimated 100,000 legitimate international students from coming to the UK to study. Further... that the professional body, English UK, estimates that 400 million pounds per annum and 3,400 jobs will be lost from the teaching sector and 1 billion pounds from the university sector, who take around 46 per cent of their international students from those who already study English in the UK."
"If the government does not rescind this legislation, other English-speaking countries will benefit while Britain's vital home grown industry will suffer."
The motion has already received the support of Conservative MP, Peter Bottomley, Labour MP, Jeremy Corbyn, and the country's first Green Party MP, Caroline Lucas.
Britain's largest provider of English language qualifications, University of Cambridge ESOL Examinations, has welcomed the motion.
Its managing director, Michael Milanovic has said in a statement: "We hope that this motion will provide the impetus to re-examine the criteria for student visas so that they are fair to everyone. There needs to be a robust system that doesn't discriminate against legitimate students but also prevents people coming to live and work in the UK by pretending to be students."