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Immigration clampdown: Controversy over architect student visas

Architects have spoken out against the government’s new visa system which they claim blocks international students from qualifying and creates an ‘impediment’ to overseas growth

The tough new immigration policies, which start their phased introduction on Monday (4 July), will make the UK less attractive to international students, according to Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment dean Alan Penn, who branded the move a ‘massive risk’.

The government plans to reduce the number of international students by up to 270,000 over the next four years, and will scrap the allowance for two years’ post-study work experience, meaning only Part 2 students with ‘sponsoring employers’ will be permitted to stay.

As a result, unsponsored foreign students will be sent home without being allowed to complete their Part 3 studies.

Penn said: ‘In such an important area for the UK’s future economic growth, it is surprising to say the least, that in a knee-jerk response, the Home Office and its Border Agency are teaming up to make us a less attractive prospect for international students.’

Richard Hyams, director of AStudio, said the move will impact on the UK’s ‘attractiveness as a country for the brightest students’ and ‘the talent pool that we would be able to draw from’.

The task of officially sponsoring students could also prove too onerous for some practices. Dieter Kursietis, business development manager of Studio Seilern added: ‘Being a sponsor will add two stages of paperwork. For a small practice that is more work.’

Chinese student Yan Anya, who works at Studio Seilern and starts her Part 2 this September, added: ‘Students from outside the EU come here partially because of the expectation to work in the UK after graduation. Without the opportunity to gain practical experience here, the qualification becomes pointless.’

The changes could also impact negatively on practices’ international work. Robert Adam of Adam Architecture said: ‘From an architectural point of view, visa restrictions are an impediment to the export of our business.’

A spokesperson for the Home Office said exceptions for courses such as architecture would be made, however architects will have to wait until April next year to learn how far these exceptions go.

The ARB declined to comment.

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