According to stakeholders, the rising popularity of short courses for professionals has reached its peak in the spring and is predicted to reach those same levels again by 2023. This could create a strain on visitor visas as demand increases.
Independent HE has voiced concerns over the new visa policy which aimed to incorporate study and tourism stints under six months. It may not be feasible, especially when it affects student mobility.
In the beginning of spring, a sizable disruption to visitor visa processing caused huge delays for all applicants.Joy Elliott-Bowman – Director of Policy & Development at IHE
Despite their frantic efforts to rapidly process long-term student visas, the situation for visitors remained backlogged and unchanged.
With the new standard visitor visa, those around the world can now experience up to six months of life in the UK. By taking advantage of this opportunity, travellers can explore educational opportunities like studying English or even attending entrance exams for higher education and professional short courses.
With visitor visa issuances stalled, students were unable to attend courses during the summer – leading to a surge of enrolment in short-term classes, especially for IHE members. It’s clear that there is a lack of accurate data on short course studentsElliott-Bowman
According to recent data from UKVI by IHE, the demand for long-term student visas and visitor permits is seeing an unprecedented surge in many countries. Interestingly, this coincides with a majority of professional courses taking place at the same time – indicating that potential students are eager for educational challenges amidst new opportunities!
In May 2022, the focus on visas for Ukrainian citizens displaced due to conflicts caused a significant increase in issues that had already been occurring throughout April. This situation is likely to continue escalating if not addressed quickly.
Despite taking steps to fix the visa delays for students, we have yet to make any progress in fixing these issues with the visitor visa route.Elliott-Bowman
Experiences for educational and leisure travellers vary drastically – from a student entering the UK to further their studies, to someone eager for some seaside relaxation in Cornwall. These two paths require entirely different approaches! The cost and situation of the issue are different.
Visitor visas in the UK have recently seen considerable delays – government figures suggest an average wait time of 5 weeks. Some applicants have to wait up to fifty days for their applications. A thorough review by the Evening Standard revealed that this affected over 60,000 people trying to enter the country.
Studying in the UK for less than six months has become a challenging endeavour due to travel restrictions and not having any tracking systems specifically designed to register short courses, English language programs or tourism-specific ones.
Elliott-Bowman highlighted the importance of tracking all education exports, such as revenue from TNE, English language learning and higher education. Previous efforts were not comprehensive enough to include significant income generated by short-course professional students who had entered on a visitor visa.
She also mentioned that tracking professional short courses early in the visitor visa application process is essential. The form should also include an indication that they are coming to study.
She is confident that the magnitude of visa backlogs in recent years was due to matters related to Ukraine’s war. With this knowledge in mind, we must all take preventative action now so we do not experience similar problems again next year.
It is essential that there must be a quick and efficient visa process. To ensure seamless entry for students, financial costs should also not become an obstacle in their journey; meanwhile maintaining accessibility as well as reputation are other top priorities which hold equal importance.