In the past three years, almost 500 international students have lost their sponsorship to study at Exeter, with some being forced to end their studies and return home. The number looks set to increase.
To gain a UK student visa at Exeter, international applicants must show they have enough funds for both academic costs and living expenses. At the moment, the annual tuition fees for non-EU students range from £15,950 to £28,500, depending on the department. To cover this, some students receive provisional sponsorships from their native countries’ governments.
But over the past three academic years, the University has reported increasing numbers of sponsorship withdrawals to the Home Office. The data, released after an Exeposé Freedom of Information request, reveals a signifi cant rise in the number of international students losing sponsorship. From 2013/14 to 2014/15, the withdrawals increased from 169 to 194 – a rise of 25 students losing sponsorship which may have been vital to their studies at Exeter.
To date this year, there has been a total of 135 reported withdrawals of sponsorship. This current figure is solely based on Term One, suggesting it could rise significantly once the final year results have been announced.
Some of these withdrawals demonstrate personal losses in funding – and some students who are not able to find alternative funding have had to terminate their study here at Exeter.
A University spokesman said: “In this case sponsorship does not relate to financial support given to students. It means the University of Exeter undertakes responsibility for a student to come to the UK and study with us.
The University “holds a licence from the Home Office so it can sponsor students to come to the UK. This means the University takes responsibility for ensuring individuals are bona fide students. These legal guidelines have to be met in order to keep this license and welcome people from around the world.
“Legal guidelines have to be met in order to welcome people from around the world.”
“There are so many reasons why [for withdrawals] – including illness and a change of course or circumstances. The number of cases where sponsorship is withdrawn fluctuates because the reasons are personal to those involved.”
Naomi Armstrong, VP Welfare and Diversity, responded: “Whenever a student has to withdraw from their studies, regardless of situation, the University should work to ensure that the process of withdrawing does not add to any stress or anxiety that they might already be feeling.”
In 2010, the UK government introduced a series of policies designed to tackle immigration abuse of student visas. One change required educational sponsors to apply for ‘highly trusted’ status. These criteria included having a low rate of student visa refusals and a high rate of course completion.
The BBC recently revealed that more than 30,000 non-EU students have had their visas curtailed by the Home Office in the past three years. In the same period, 410 educational establishments had their licences to sponsor international students revoked.
The NUS claimed that international students were being “scapegoated” to meet targets on net migration.
The sponsorship withdrawal statistics may correlate to the Home Office’s accumulating demands on non-EU students.
Sponsorship withdrawals Exeter has reported to the Home Office:
2013/14 – 169
2014/15 – 194
2015/16 – 135 (so far)