Rudd insists she is not racist following immigration speech reaction

Updated: 2016-10-05 21:04

By Wang Mingjie in London(

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Rudd insists she is not racist following immigration speech reaction

British Home Secretary Amber Rudd delivers her keynote address at the annual Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, Britain, October 4, 2016.  [Photo/Agencies]

Home Secretary Amber Rudd has hit back at critics who labeled her a racist following a speech she made at the Tory party conference about possible immigration curbs.

"I don't think we should have a situation where we can't talk about immigration," she said on BBC Radio 4's Today program on Wednesday. "We must not ignore the fact that people want to talk about immigration and if we do talk about immigration, don't call me a racist."

On Tuesday, at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, Rudd said the government's desire to see net migration into the UK reduced to sustainable levels may mean the granting of student visas in future is linked to the quality of courses and universities where students want to study.

She also announced the establishment of a new 140-million-pound Controlling Migration Fund aimed at easing pressure on public services in areas with high immigrant populations.

Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said Rudd's proposals were "a nasty little policy that deserves to be thrown out on the rubbish heap".

The announcement about student visas is likely to mean students on poor-quality courses and those at inferior educational institutions will face tougher entry rules. Commentators have said the aim is to crack down on the number of people using student visas to get into the UK so they can work.

Tanya Wang, senior immigration adviser at UVIC, an education and visa service agency, said it is too early to say what impact such a change might have on Chinese students coming to the UK. But she predicted "universities with a less privileged status may be opposed to this idea because, if such a policy comes into effect, it could significantly affect them".

Wang Junwei, who is studying engineering management at the University of Warwick, said such a change might improve the quality of universities and graduates. Wang said a cap on the number of students coming into the country might also mean more jobs for local people.

"However, the question is whether the locals are willing to work in those positions?" Wang said. "If they are not, this might influence the daily activities of a factory, a shop, etc. This will cause a domino effect."

In her speech, Rudd highlighted the role of UK universities as world-leading centers of academic excellence, but questioned some aspects of the student visa system.

"Foreign students, even those studying English language degrees, don't even have to be proficient in speaking English," she said. "We need to look at whether this one-size-fits-all approach really is right for the hundreds of different universities, providing thousands of different courses across the country. "

Dr Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, an organization representing 24 leading UK universities, said: "Our universities compete on the global stage, so we welcome the government's commitment to help us attract the brightest and the best from around the world. It is essential that our immigration system takes a risk-based approach to support legitimate students who want to study here."

Rudd is also considering strengthening a test that companies have to pass before they can recruit employees from abroad.

"The test should ensure people coming here are filling gaps in the labor market, not taking jobs British people could do," Rudd said.

In August, the UK also started a new pilot visa scheme for international students that allows them to stay on for an extra six months after graduation with a master's degree from the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, and the University of Bath.

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