Britain is toughening up its process for granting student visas, and will begin interviewing students it deems as high-risk applicants from across the world – India included.

Around 14,000 students from across the world are expected to be interviewed in the next 12 months, as the UK Border Agency introduced the screening process for high risk applicants following a pilot scheme conducted across 13 countries including India last year to ascertain the efficacy of face-to-face interviews.

A number of factors will be used to determine which students count as “high risk” – including their immigration history, their study and post study plans, financial circumstances, the course provider and agents involved. Officials will also be able to reject students who don’t attend the interview without a reasonable explanation.

During the pilot around a fifth of the 2,300 interviewed were refused entry due to a number of factors including lack of proficiency in English. “Some were unable to answer basic questions in English without the aid of an interpreter – despite stating on their application forms that they had the necessary language qualifications to study at higher and further education standards in the U.K,” the UK Border Agency said on Monday, as it announced the roll out of the scheme.

“Under the current system UK Border Agency officers are unable to refuse some applicants even if they have serious concerns over the credibility of the student,” said the Immigration Minister, Mr David Green. “We are toughening up the system to ensure genuine students benefit from our country’s excellent education sector.”

Speculation about the future of the government’s policy on student visas has been building. According to The Sunday Times, the Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron, is examining whether foreign students should be removed from official immigration figures, amid increasing pressure from bodies representing British universities about the impact that tough restrictions were having on their ability to compete globally for the best students. Universities have issued repeated warnings about the changes to the immigration rules covering international students, including limiting their ability to work, and bring dependents and requiring them to return home following the end of the degree.

(This article was published on July 9, 2012)
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