English language schools win court battle over visas
The colleges say 100,000 people would be deterred from coming to the UK
By Angela Harrison
Education correspondent, BBC News
Page last updated at 09:33 GMT, Friday, 9 July 2010 10:33 UK
English language schools have won a High Court battle over visa restrictions which they say are absurd and damaging to their businesses.
They took the action over new regulations which say that people coming to the UK to study must have a good standard of English.
The restrictions were part of a drive against illegal immigration.
The government says illegal immigrants and migrants seeking low-skilled work were abusing the system.
Foreign students coming to study are now required to have English language skills of at least GCSE level.
English UK, which represents 440 language schools, says the regulations are “disproportionate and unjustified”.
The group's chief executive Tony Millns said: “It's clearly absurd requiring students to know English before they come here to study it.”
His group brought the case after the rules were tightened by the Labour Home Secretary Alan Johnson.
It argued in court that the Home Office should have brought the issue back to Parliament for proper debate.
Mr Justice Foskett said the fresh restrictions had been achieved through altering guidelines when there should have been a formal change to the rules, with the matter referred back to Parliament.
Mr Millns said: “I am delighted and relieved.
“We are pleased that Mr Justice Foskett saw the merits of our case and we believe that his decision is good for the UK economy, to which the English language sector contributes about 1.5 billion in foreign earnings each year.”
He said he hoped common sense would now prevail so that students could come into the UK to study English with a lower level in the language, equivalent to having studied it for 150 to 200 hours.
The coalition government says it is reviewing English language requirements across the visa system.
It believes the student visa system could be abused by people who want to come to Britain but have no intention of studying.
A spokesman for the Home Office said: “We are carefully considering this judgment.
“This government is committed to undertake a review into the Student Tier of the Points Based System in its entirety later this year to ensure that every student who comes to the UK is genuine.”
Last month the government said it would bring forward to the autumn other measures planned by Labour requiring many immigrants marrying UK citizens to prove they have a command of English.