UK top universities urge fast-tracking student visa reforms to attract int'l students

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LONDON, May 21 (Xinhua) -- To ensure Britain remains a top destination for international students, the Russell Group of top British universities has called on the government to fast-track the post-study work visa into law and extend it by six months.

The group, representing 24 leading British universities including Oxford and Cambridge, said Wednesday that actions are needed to protect Britain's hard won reputation as a global leader in higher education, which attracts thousands of students to the country each year.

Noting that most international students still intend to study abroad in future despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the group said competition for students will be fierce.

"International students bring many benefits to the UK, but as the world recovers from the COVID-19 crisis, we have to expect numbers will fall for a while and that competition from other countries will be even more fierce than usual," said Tim Bradshaw, chief executive of the group.

Besides continuing visa reforms and passing the two-year post study work visa through emergency immigration rules, the group further called on the government to increase the visa to 30 months and allow students to apply for a visa six months rather than three before their physical course start date, so as to give Britain an edge over competitors.

It also wants a joint international marketing campaign targeting key countries to show Britain and its universities are an open, safe and welcoming place to study, involving bodies like the British Council and the Department for International Trade.

There should be a global consensus on recognition of online courses too, which is a key issue for international students returning to home countries for work after graduation, said the group. Enditem

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