The University of Bath is one of four institutions in the pilot visa scheme
UK launches pilot visa scheme at four universities

The UK Home Office has launched a pilot scheme at four prestigious universities to ease the student visa application process for non-EU master's students and increase their post-study leave to six months.

Unveiled last week, the two-year trial covers the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford, the University of Bath and Imperial College London.


The four institutions in the scheme will be responsible for checking the eligibility of non-EU applicants. Updated guidance on Tier 4 visas published on the Home Office website states the pilot allows students to submit fewer documents.


"You will not be required to submit certificates or documents showing your previous qualifications or transcript of results and documents showing you meet the maintenance requirements," the Home Office advice to students states.


The Home Office also confirms that after completion of a master's programme of no longer than 13 months, non-EU students at the four institutions will be granted post-study leave of six months to try and find employment - an extension of two months over the standard permission.


A government document circulated to universities states the four institutions were selected for their consistently low refusal rates. "The pilot is intentionally narrow in scope in order to monitor the pilot outcomes against the stated objectives and to minimise the risk of unintended consequences before considering rolling it out more widely," it said.


Anthony Dangerfield, Head of the University of Cambridge International Student Team, said, "We welcome any developments to the student visa system that support the university in attracting the brightest and best students from around the world


"Those eligible under the pilot will have access to a streamlined visa application process and the additional time granted on the visa will be helpful in supporting students who wish to seek employment opportunities in the UK."


However, some industry figures questioned the move to further stratify the international education sector, following several changes over recent years that have produced different levels of responsibilities for institutions and privileges for students, depending on educational level and whether schools are private or publicly funded.


Pam Tatlow, Chief Executive of MillionPlus, the association for younger universities, told Times Higher Education, "This pilot formalises a differentiated approach to universities that will concern many vice-chancellors and principals and should concern the Department for Education and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.


"A two-tier system based on the cohorts that these four institutions recruit in no way reflects the wider international market in which universities throughout the UK engage."



By Matthew Knott

News Editor