Belfast Telegraph

Queen's joins scheme to encourage international students

By David Hughes

Queen's is among a group of more than 20 universities added to a pilot scheme making it easier for international masters students to study at UK institutions.

For the first time institutions in Northern Ireland, plus Scotland and Wales, will be involved in the scheme.

Under the programme, universities are given responsibility for eligibility checks, meaning that students can submit fewer documents than currently required alongside their visa applications.

The universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Bath and Imperial College London are currently taking part in the Tier 4 visa pilot, but 23 further institutions will now take part for students in the 2018/19 intake. The pilot streamlines the process for international students looking to study on a masters course of 13 months or less in the UK.

It also provides greater support for students who wish to switch to a work visa and take up a graduate role, by allowing them to remain in the country for six months after they have finished their course.

Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis said: "I am delighted to announce the expansion of this pilot which is part of our ongoing activity to ensure that our world-leading institutions remain highly competitive.

"The UK continues to be the second most popular destination for international students and the number coming to study at our universities has increased by 24% since 2010. This is a clear indication that genuine students are welcome and there is no limit on the number who can come to study in the UK."

The most recent Home Office statistics show that the number of students applying for visas increased by 8% over the past year, and there has been a 9% increase in the number of students applying to Russell Group universities.

The additional 23 universities, including Queen's University Belfast, were selected as their visa refusal rates are consistently the lowest in their area or region.

Scottish Government Minister for International Development and Europe, Alasdair Allan, said: "We urge the UK government to roll out these modest changes to the Tier 4 route to all universities as soon as possible."

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