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UK Home Secretary Theresa May to send foreign students back home under new plans

Monday, 22 December 2014

Overseas students could be sent back to their home countries after their courses finish under new plans reportedly being considered by Home Secretary Theresa May.

Students from non-European countries would have to return home and apply for a work visa if they wanted to continue to live in the UK after graduation.

A report in The Sunday Times said Mrs May wants a future Conservative government to "move towards zero net student migration" by sending home those who come to Britain on student visas.

A source close to the Home Secretary told the newspaper: "Making sure immigrants leave Britain at the end of their visa is as important a part of running a fair and efficient immigration system as controlling who comes here in the first place.

"Theresa is pressing for the next Conservative manifesto to contain a policy that will make sure that anybody coming here on a student visa will have to leave the country in order to apply for a new visa of any kind.

"She wants to make the colleges and universities that sponsor foreign students responsible for ensuring their departure.

"She wants to be able to fine colleges and universities with low departure rates and deprive the worst of them of their right to sponsor foreign students."

Under current rules, most students switch easily to a work visa from within the UK rather than have to leave the country and then come back.

Mrs May has repeatedly clashed with Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable - whose department has responsibility for universities - about foreign students.

Mr Cable has warned about tough rhetoric on immigration putting off students from countries including India from attending UK institutions and the Liberal Democrats would be highly unlikely to support any further tightening of the rules.

A senior Lib Dem source said her plan made "zero economic sense" and could deprive the UK of highly-skilled graduates.

"Such a blunt instrument would not get our support," the source said.

"The idea that you have people from abroad studying in this country and they become engineers or scientists of huge practical value to the economy, and rather than have them stay here you immediately turf them out makes zero economic sense."

Mrs May's plan emerged following a week in which her allies have been caught up in an internal party feud.

The Tory hierarchy is said to have blocked attempts by allies of the Home Secretary to stand as MPs after they refused to canvass support for the Conservatives in the Rochester and Strood by-election last month.

Nick Timothy and Stephen Parkinson declined to take part, citing the code of conduct for special advisers, which states they would have to resign if they wanted to get involved.

The move to block their candidacy is seen as the latest power struggle amid claims Mrs May is gearing up for a leadership bid if David Cameron is ousted after the election.

The Mail on Sunday reported that Chancellor George Osborne, another potential successor to Mr Cameron, was instrumental in the move aimed at depriving Mrs May of allies in the Commons.

Tory backbencher Nadine Dorries told the newspaper: "The man pulling the strings is Osborne, not Cameron.

"Osborne is desperate to ensure he has enough MPs in place to vote him on to the shortlist of two, which is put before members to choose the next leader, should there be a contest in 2015.

"Those two are likely to be Boris Johnson and Theresa May."

She added: 'If Nick and Stephen become MPs that is two more votes for Theresa and two fewer for George.

"Theresa has had a lot to put up with. The more popular she is among party members, the nastier it becomes in Westminster.

London Evening Standard

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