Amidst continuing concern among stakeholders about dwindling student numbers from India and other countries, the David Cameron government is planning to introduce a tougher English language test to slash the number of international students coming to the UK.
Cameron and Home secretary Theresa May have called for the tougher tests to cut student numbers, but there is opposition from some senior ministers on its potentially adverse impact on the higher education economy. The new test will reportedly cut 25,000 students a year.
According to The Sunday Times, the Home Office held a workshop last week with representatives of universities to announce plans to replace the existing tests with a more rigorous international English language testing system.
Student numbers from India have showed a marked decline in recent years, but this has been made up by increasing numbers from China. International students need to pass a written and spoken English language test as part of university admission and visa procedures.
Plans for the new test have sparked renewed concern in universities that depend on income from international students, who typically pay twice or more than UK/EU students in course fees and also contribute to local economies.
Nicola Dandridge, the chief executive of Universities UK, said: “There is no evidence to suggest that students recruited under the current English language requirements are held back by their English language skills or are performing poorly academically”.
She added: “In fact, official data shows the degree results achieved by international students are similar to those of UK students, with 87% of non-UK students achieving a first or second-class degree.”
Since 2010, the Cameron government’s efforts to curb immigration included a crackdown on several bogus colleges and closing the post-study work visa that was popular among self-financing Indian and other international students.
May said: “We’ve made changes to the student route to ensure that those coming to those institutions are eligible to do so. Nine-hundred private colleges are no longer able to bring in overseas students as a result of action we’ve taken. We constantly look to see if there are other issues that we need to address.”