The Home Office has been accused of racial discrimination, amid claims of “harsh and unjustified” rejections of student visa applications of students from parts of Southern India, Pakistan and Africa. The accusations come after a report in the Times Higher Education revealed that UK universities are being forced to stop offering places to students from areas with high levels of visa rejections, for fear of losing their sponsorship status.
Mostafa Rajaai, National Union of Students’ International Students Officer said: “A lot of universities are now not offering places to students from certain countries, especially Pakistan and Nigeria. Prospective students from these countries have a very negative view of the UK now. They think this is racial discrimination.”
One in ten non-EU students have been refused student visas in the past two years, after failing to pass credibility interviews following acceptance to UK universities. The UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) published a report scrutinising Home Office’s visa regulations.
In a “sample of particularly contentious decisions” reported to UKCISA by UK Higher Education Institutions, reasons given for rejection include “not knowing the number of students likely to be in a class” and “not knowing exam dates”.
The report claimed, “a member of staff would be unable to confirm either of these details. So asking a student to have this information is completely unreasonable.”
Jonny Ross-Tatam, President of Edinburgh University Students Assosiation (EUSA), told The Student: “Our view is that anybody with the ability should be able to come and study in the UK, regardless of where they come from and how much money they have.
“Excluding students because of where they come from puts a barrier on our ambition for our society, economy and the lives of those students. There should be no barriers and no borders to higher education.”
Montana Kimel EUSA International Students Convenor, called the credibility interview process “ridiculous.”
She told The Student: “These measures are another example of the government’s increasing [efforts to deny] international students entry to the UK. It is really frustrating because once again we are a targeted group when it comes to immigration.
“Most students couldn’t answer these broad and ridiculous questions even after studying here for several years!
“This is a sneaky way to reduce the amount of international students in higher education, without directly saying that they will.”
Sanam Arora, President of the National Union of Indian Students, told The Student: “There are two issues going on here. There are certain regions, such as specific regions in India and Pakistan and Africa, where there’s a high number of credibility interviews being targeted for students issued with a CAS.
“There are universities who are seeing these areas as high risk and therefore, they’re withdrawing from them.
“So it’s a double-edged sword as to what’s happening. These universities are being told not to recruit from certain regions and at the same time for fear of refusal they are withdrawing from these regions.
“This has to be some form of discrimination, and is certainly unfair at the very least on students. The damage these kind of policies is having on the UK’s Higher Education system is very high.”
Correction: The print version of this story incorrectly identified the news organisation that first reported that the UK government is being forced to stop offering places to certain countries. That organisation was the Times Higher Education, not The Times. The Student apologises for the error.
Image: Paul Shaw