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Students planning to study in UK face tougher controls
LONDON, July 31, 2008: Foreign students planning to study in Britain will have to supply their fingerprints under new rules introduced by the Home Office in a crackdown on bogus students and colleges.

Universities and colleges recruiting overseas students for courses longer than six months must have a licence and if any institution fails to comply, it faces being blacklisted. They must keep detailed records of their overseas students, telling the Home Office if they miss 10 lectures in a row or defer their studies.

Visiting students will also be required to be sponsored by a licensed institution and provide proof they can financially support themselves and their families.

"All those who come to Britain must play by the rules," said Border and Immigration Minister Liam Byrne. "It's right that foreign students wanting to take advantage of our world-class universities and colleges must meet strict criteria.

"By locking people to one identity with ID cards, alongside a tough new sponsorship system, we will know exactly who is coming here to study and crack down on bogus colleges."

It is estimated foreign students contribute 8.5 billion pounds a year to the UK economy, but immigration is a sensitive issue, with the Conservatives pressing for tighter controls.

Earlier this year, the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills said trading standards officers had serious concerns over 124 institutions out of 256 it had investigated.

"I'll not tolerate the minority of individuals who seek to damage the quality of our education system through bogus colleges," added Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell."This is why we have introduced tighter checks to the current Register of Education and Training Providers. The new system will toughen this process further and give extra protection from the damage bogus colleges can cause."

Our Staff Reporter adds from Islamabad: The British government has announced the expansion of its 'points-based system' for processing visas for students.

It claims that the new system is aimed at ensuring transparency, enabling applicants to determine before applying whether they qualify for a student visa. The initiative will also help the authorities stamp out bogus colleges.

"Tier 4" of the system requires all institutions wishing to recruit foreign students to get hold of a licence before they start doing so. And every student will need a licensed sponsor.

Under the new system, which replaced the Highly Skilled Migrants Programme in June, applicants will be able to check online if they meet the criteria by using an internet "calculator".

According to a statement, the system will come in force in spring of 2009 after which no student without a confirmed acceptance letter from a recognised institution will be granted a visa.

Adult students will be allowed in only "where they can demonstrate a proven track record in studying".

They will need an immigration sponsor - that is, the education provider that has accepted them on a course.

A sponsor's confirmation of acceptance for studies will account for 30 of the 40 points needed to get a student visa.

It will be a pre-requisite to getting the visa but no guarantee that someone will be granted one.

The other 10 points will come from checks by UK entry clearance officers that applicants have sufficient funds and that their documentation is genuine.

Students on courses of more than 12 months will have to show they can pay their first year of fees and have at least 9,600 for their first year in the UK.

Once in the UK students will face ongoing checks. Dawn/Reuters/BBC News

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