For many international students the chance to pursue a degree and gain work experience in the United Kingdom has become a distant dream as the UK Home Office announced stricter reforms to its Tier 4 student visa system earlier this year.
Some prospective students in the UAE say they are rethinking their decision to go to the UK, but parents with sufficient funds and scholarship students have not changed their plans.
Sangeetha Sagar had hopes of pursuing a master's degree in creative writing in the UK, but is having second thoughts.
"It is worrying that you don't get a work visa when you finish and that will discourage a lot of people. That's why I'm thinking of other options like the US and Canada because there aren't many restrictions regarding work there."
The current Post-Study Work route will be closed from April 2012 and the new rules will be stricter for students wanting to work in the UK after graduation.
Finance will also pose a major hurdle as the new rules require applicants to show finances of £600 (Dh3,574.24) per month if living outside Inner London (£5,400 for the first year, equal to nine months study) and £800 per month if studying in Inner London amounting to £7,200.
Student counsellors Rema Menon from Counselling Point and Suad Al Halwachi from Education Zone said the rule about having adequate funds for tuition fees plus accommodation in the bank for a period of 28 days can prove to be a challenge for some families who are struggling with financial problems. "This rule can also pose a challenge to those individuals who apply for the visa at the last minute and are not aware of the regulations," said Menon.
However both counsellors said the new visa regulations will ensure students get accepted into legitimate institutions that are accredited by the British government and bogus diploma mills will no longer be allowed to operate.
The new rules also require a higher level of English and only postgraduate students will be able to bring over dependants.
John M.P., who will be sending his daughter Tanya to the UK to complete a psychology course at the University of Kent, said: "I'm not blowing my own trumpet, but I can afford this. Even before we started looking, we approached a counsellor and did our homework so we knew you have to have a good amount in the bank for 28 days."
Shelly Hibberd, Career Adviser at Gems Wellington International School and Dubai College student counsellor Nick Jones said this year's application process was no different to the last and nobody expressed concern about the rules.
Have you applied for a student visa to the UK recently? Did you face any problems due to the latest restrictions? We would like to hear from you.
Tier-4 student visa
The British Council recently organised various meetings in collaboration with the UK Border Agency in the UAE to explain the changes to the Tier 4 student visa. Agents, scholarship providers, school counsellors and other interested parties attended to understand the new changes.
British Council Dubai director Kate Owen said the meetings were held because counsellors were confused about the changes. "We were fielding calls from worried scholarship agencies and schools so we arranged the meetings to make them understand the changes as simply as we could," said Owen.
For the full list of new restrictions to the Tier-4 student visa system, visit: www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/news-and-updates/