Czech universities resist stricter changes to international students’ visa scheme

Under new rules, Czech universities face punishment and exclusion from the visa scheme if new criteria are not met. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 15.12.2023 11:17:00 (updated on 15.12.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

The Czech Council of Higher Education Institutions has sharply objected to strict new penalties within the Czech Republic's specialized student visa regime. Referring to a resolution adopted in early December, the board argues blanket bans on schools' access to the program unfairly hinder universities' internationalization efforts.

The new rules substantially affect the country’s so-called Student Regime: a concept that streamlines visa procedures for selected students from third countries. The rules tighten the monitoring and regulation of international students’ progress, punishing both students and universities if certain criteria are not met.

Punishment for universities

Under the rules, universities risk a one-year suspension from the student visa program if over 10 percent of students selected for the scheme fail to enroll or if more than 20 percent leave their programs within the first year of study. However, the Czech Council of Higher Education Institutions asserts that schools have no control over such circumstances and deserve consideration of mitigating factors before facing any restrictions.

"A 10-percent no-show rate sounds high, but you have to keep in mind how many variables could influence a prospective student's last-minute decision," said council chairman Robert Husák. Natural disasters, family emergencies, or amended career plans may all interfere, he explained.

Other rules state that only students who pass the entrance exam as part of the admission procedure can be enrolled in the Student Regime and that each university is obliged to verify that the student has sufficient knowledge of the language in which the teaching will take place. Furthermore, universities now have an obligation to send to the Ministry of Education every year a report that details all students’ progress from the previous academic year, indicating their enrollment status and progress of study.

Universities want autonomy

The issue has generated heated debates within academic circles. Critics argue the "blunt instrument" of blanket bans disregards legitimate changes in personal circumstances and offers no avenue for appeal. Some propose alternative safeguards like monitored probationary periods in place of outright exclusion from the visa program.

The council acknowledges the government’s goal of ensuring the enrollment of applicants who are properly eligible. Still, it stated a willingness to refine the policy in collaboration with the Education Ministry. "Our objective is balanced oversight, not undue punishment," the council stressed.

As discussions continue, consensus will require meaningful participation from all sides and willingness to understand multiple perspectives, Husák asserted. Ultimately, universities do not want tighter rules and regulations that could lower the international makeup of Czech universities.

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