Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Investigating the Impact of the Tier 4 Policy on International Students at Private Colleges in the UK

Academic journal article Journal of International Students

Investigating the Impact of the Tier 4 Policy on International Students at Private Colleges in the UK

Article excerpt

The United Kingdom is the second most popular destination among international students, after the United States of America, for higher studies (The UK Government, 2013). Academic degrees from UK universities are recognised worldwide for their high standards and the quality of education. Every year, more than 430,000 overseas students from 180 countries come to the UK to study (The UK Council for International Student Affairs, 2015). These international students contribute to the country's culture, social life, and the economy (Wiseman & Davies, 2013) . The economic benefits derived from their presence are multiple. In the UK, the value of the education-related export market is estimated at £14.1 billion, and is projected to reach £26.6 billion by 2025 (Conlon, Litchfield & Sadlier, 2011). Education is the fifth largest service export sector in the UK (The UK Government, 2013). Foreign students not only boost the UK economy but also introduce their own diverse cultures and knowledge which benefit home students with an enhanced understanding of the wider world (Malik, 2014). Volet and Ang (1998) state: "International and multicultural student campuses represent ideal social forums for understanding; fostering tolerance of diversity; discovering alternative ways of thinking and developing intercultural skills." (p. 6).

Education is comparatively expensive in the UK when compared with the prices charged by universities located in USA, Australia and Canada (Binsardi & Ekwulugo, 2003). Non-EU students who cannot afford the high tuition fees at public colleges and universities apply for admission to private colleges, which are relatively cheaper and typically offer diploma courses, commonly in business management and tourism. Some of the private colleges are affiliated with publicly funded universities and offer graduate, postgraduate and PhD level courses. The students who have taken undergraduate degrees in their home countries take diplomas with certain credits in private colleges in order to become eligible for Master's degrees offered by universities, as the most cost effective way to obtain a UK university degree. In the UK education system, a Master's degree consists of 180 credits; 120 credits are obtained from study modules and the remaining 60 credits from a dissertation. Students can complete a postgraduate diploma worth 120 credits at a private college, and then transfer to a university to complete the dissertation and earn the remaining 60 credits to claim a Masters degree. This is known as a top-up postgraduate degree and is very popular among the international students with less financial sources.

However, it is generally assumed that some private colleges enrol 'fake learners' and abuse the immigration system for their own financial gain. It is also thought that, on occasion, fraudulent students deceive trustworthy private colleges by pretending to be genuine learners and use them as an easy route by which to enter or remain in the UK (Slack, 2014). In 2009, the UK government introduced the Tier 4 policy as deterrent to these practices (Wiseman & Davies, 2013). According to this policy, any institution recruiting international students must be a highly trusted sponsor - a status determined by the UK Border Agency (UKBA, 2014). In 2011, the UKBA imposed further restrictions on Tier 4 adult students (16 and older) intending to study in the UK and their maximum stay on student visas was restricted to eight and a half years. Subsequently, however, PhD candidates were exempted from this restriction. Also, the students at publicly funded Further Education (FE) colleges were limited to working a maximum of 10 hours per week during term time. Before this policy, they had the right to work up to 20 hours in term time. They were permitted to spend a maximum of three years on undergraduate courses and five years at graduate level. The students attending private colleges are subject to the same restrictions and in addition their right to work was totally denied. …

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