A world-leading South Tyneside maritime training centre will withstand any rough seas around overseas student recruitment caused by a no-deal Brexit, its bosses have insisted.
They say South Shields Marine School will remain ideally placed to continue training hundreds of foreign students each year, whether Britain leaves the EU with a deal or not. Leaders claim this is due to most of their overseas learners coming from non-EU countries, meaning they will not be affected by any possible change in rules around entry visas.
Bosses spoke to calm the waters after UK university chiefs last week warned of the potentially dire impact on foreign students if Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal.
A joint letter on behalf of the heads of 150 UK universities, sent to MPs, warned that vital research links would be compromised and student exchanges would suffer.
The letter, from groups including Universities UK, the Russell Group, Guild HE, Million Plus and University Alliance, said universities’ £21bn contribution to the UK economy was at risk.
But John Roach, Principal of South Shields Marine School, said he did not foresee his centre suffering any downturn in foreign student numbers.
As well as most arriving from non-EU countries, he said the marine school enjoyed ‘Highly Trusted’ status with the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) service.
Mr Roach added: “Maritime training is a considerable export for the UK and South Shields Marine School is one of the UK’s leading maritime training providers.
“The demand by overseas seafarers for a UK Maritime Certificate of Competency, including from within the EU, will continue to be fully served by us.
“We have ‘Highly Trusted’ status with the UKVI and offer overseas learners sponsorship for Tier 4 student visas.
“In the case of a no-deal Brexit, we assume that this would be extended to the small number of EU learners who wish to study with us.
“The Department for Transport is keenly aware of the global reputation of UK maritime training and consider it a major UK export.
“I’m confident these factors will mean we will see no fall in the number of overseas students we train each year.”
Dame Janet Beer, president of Universities UK, who was among those who to sign the letter, warned that time was running out to save the existing recruitment system.
She believes world-leading researchers will be lost to other countries if the UK losses access to European research networks.
The Russell Group of leading research universities said it had already identified a downturn in EU students wanting to study in the UK.
South Shields Marine School - part of the new Tyne Coast College, which includes South Tyneside College - issues about 300 Tier 4 visa sponsorship letters per year, mainly to Indian and African students.
These are issued to people aged 16 or over who wish to study in the UK, who have been offered a place on a course and are from a country that is not in the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland.
The marine school also sponsors up to 1,200 international learners a year on short-term, six-month student visitor visas, mostly from India, Africa and the Middle East.
In response to the warning letter, the government insisted the UK would continue to attract the world's leading scientists and researchers to work and study.