"People are using the student visa as a means of gaining illicit entry"
UK universities have been warned about a “marked” increase in Bangladeshi students seeking asylum within months of arriving in the UK.
According to government documents, approximately 1,600 students from Bangladesh made claims within their first year living in the UK between October 1, 2021, and September 30, 2022.
This is out of 3,000 foreign students.
Home Office immigration chiefs became so alarmed they told some universities to suspend course offers to “anyone from Bangladesh” until background checks were complete.
They warned many were using forged identity documents.
It was revealed that most asylum claims from Bangladeshis were made by men aged between 21 and 30.
Almost 1,400 had received university offers to study courses with ‘business’ or ‘international’ in the title.
Home Office officials also flagged a 100% increase in university applications from Ghana, warning that a quarter of those investigated relied on bogus paperwork.
A leading academic described the scandal as higher education’s equivalent of small boats crossing the Channel.
Professor Alan Smithers, of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham, said:
“People are using the student visa as a means of gaining illicit entry to the UK… it is no different to the boats crossing the Channel.”
The Home Office said all asylum claims were “carefully considered in line with published policy”.
There has also been an increase in Indian students coming to the UK and this is noticeable at university campuses.
In 2022, 140,000 Indian students came to the UK to study.
In August 2023, it was revealed that top UK universities were offering more places to international students than British applicants in clearing.
Analysis of courses advertised by UCAS showed that foreign students were offered places on hundreds more undergraduate degrees in clearing at Russell Group institutions than their British counterparts.
This meant that British teenagers who failed to achieve the required A-Level grades for their first-choice course were likely to be disappointed when they tried to find another course.
This came amid an increase in the number of international students at British universities, with 679,970 studying in the UK in 2021-22.
Undergraduate fees have been capped at £9,250 for domestic students since 2017, whereas there is no limit on fees for international students.
The Government set an ambition to have 600,000 international students studying in the UK by 2030.
It reached this in 2020-21, with 605,130 international higher education students at universities, further education colleges, and alternative providers.
This was an increase of 109,000 since 2018-19.
Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said:
“This is the first truly hard evidence of what we have been predicting for 2023.
“It is a good thing when UK universities are diverse communities with lots of international students, but it is a bad thing that universities now lose money on home students and are therefore actively discouraged from recruiting them.
“At some point soon, policymakers are going to have to bite the bullet and raise fees or other forms of university funding, or else they will have to accept that university courses will be more actively promoted among people abroad than at home.”