Foreign students face tough new controls

LONDON Wed Jul 30, 2008 2:20pm BST

University students attend a debate meeting at the Cambridge Union Society in Cambridge May 11, 2007. 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. REUTERS/Alessia Pierdomenico

University students attend a debate meeting at the Cambridge Union Society in Cambridge May 11, 2007. 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.

Credit: Reuters/Alessia Pierdomenico

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LONDON (Reuters) - 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."

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(Reporting by John Joseph; Editing by Steve Addison)

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