Head calls for less red tape for students from overseas
RED tape should be cut for overseas students coming to study in Plymouth, says a top city head teacher.
Dr Simon Wormleighton, headmaster of Plymouth College, said he hoped the Government would make it easier for non-EU students to get visas to take up places at UK schools and colleges.
Dr Wormleighton was speaking as MPs warned that the Government's commitment to cut net migration was threatening the UK's ability to expand its share of the overseas student market.
It comes after London Metropolitan University was stripped of its highly trusted status for sponsoring international students.
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A review found that more than a quarter of a sample of students studying at London Met did not even have permission to stay in the country.
Plymouth College is licensed by the UK Borders Agency to sponsor students and has had a "surge" of late overseas applications, mainly due to publicity over the Olympics medal success of pupils Tom Daley and Ruta Meilutyte.
Some of those would have to start school late because of red tape, Dr Wormleighton said.
"We work closely with the agency but it can still take four or five weeks for a visa to come through.
"Some students will not be able to join the school until the middle of October.
"I would like to see the Government make it easier.
"Millions and millions of pounds are being brought into the UK by overseas students at private schools."
He said the students also enriched life at Plymouth College and raised the profile of the city around the world.
About 50 boarders at the school are from outside the EU and the number continues to rise.
School fees for boarding pupils are £24,125 to £25,485 a year.
Plymouth University continues to have highly trusted status after a Borders Agency inspection in July this year.
Peter Ingram, its head of international academic partnerships, said the university had 1,600 to 1,700 non-EU students registered at any one time.
"This September we expect about 1,000 new overseas students," he said.
Only "a tiny number" failed to complete their courses because the university set high academic and English-language standards for applicants from non-EU countries.
"Our trend has been upwards, but we came from a low base."
The largest number of non-EU students at Plymouth University are from China, followed by the Middle East and West Africa, particularly Nigeria.
The growth in numbers from India has slackened, he said.
At UCP Marjon the number of non-EU students is tiny.
Karen Barnfield, compliance officer, said: "In the academic year 2011/12 the University College Plymouth St Mark and St John issued 11 CAS (confirmation of acceptance for studies).
"A CAS enables overseas applicants to apply for a visa to be issued by the Borders Agency.
"We adhere strictly to the Borders Agency policy guidance in processing all applications for study and entry to the UK, and have encountered no problems with our use of the system this year."
See tomorrow's Herald Big Read for a full interview with Dr Simon Wormleighton