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Job fears as minister plans visa cutback.

Byline: David James

SOUTH Wales language schools and universities have hit out at plans to tighten up visas for students coming to the UK.

Fears about jobs in English language teaching were raised yesterday after Immigration Minister Damian Green used a speech to promise a crackdown on foreign student numbers in the UK, which he described as "unsustainable".

Mr Green said he wanted to reduce the 300,000 visas granted to foreign students every year and said only the "brightest and

Grace Durighello, director of studies at Cardiff's longest-standing private language school, accused Mr Green of confusing an education success story with problem immigration.

Mrs Durighello, of the Centre for English Language Teaching (Celt), said staff were already seeing a rise in the number of job applications from teachers laid off as reforms brought in by the previous Labour government to tighten up the visa process hit student numbers.

She said its students were people who were looking to improve their job prospects not stay in the UK.

She said: "These are people who genuinely want to improve their English to improve their job prospects back home.

"We have been speaking to agents and the perception among language travel agents abroad is that the UK is not open for business, that we have closed our borders. They are directing their students to the US, Canada and Australia and schools there must be rubbing their hands with glee.

"It's not just schools and teachers that will suffer, its the local economies. A lot stay with host families."

Some 90,000 foreign nationals are granted visas every year to study courses at below degree level in the UK and Mr Green questioned "whether this is the best use of our private sector training system".

But Mrs Durighello said it was simply a success story - not just for private schools but for further education colleges, such as Coleg Glan Hafren in Cardiff and Cardiff University, that run English-language schemes.

She called on the Government to focus its efforts on bogus institutions that exist to arrange visas for students and not to tighten an already restrictive visa system.

Peter Crofts, director of marketing and recruitment at University of Glamorgan, which welcomes 1,300 foreign nationals every year to study, welcomed Mr Green's more positive words for foreign students in higher education.

It is estimated that there are around 10,000 foreign students attending Welsh universities who pay fees totalling pounds 80m a year.

The largest number are at Cardiff University followed by Glamorgan and Swansea.

Mr Crofts said: "We need to separate the issues of immigration and students coming here to study. It is an important source of income but for the university it is more than that. It gives a bit of a multicultural flavour to the university experience."

The university's Professor Brian Morgan said the Government should see the education of foreign nationals as an export which helps boost the country's balance of payments.
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 7, 2010
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