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Page last updated at 15:54 GMT, Monday, 2 August 2010 16:54 UK

Visa change threatens Sussex language schools

Students at a language school

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An industry worth millions of pounds to Sussex seaside towns is under threat.

Sovereigh Harbour in Eastbourne
Eastbourne: language students are a major source of income

A change to visa regulations has meant language schools along the coast are seeing fewer students.

The government now requires students to show better skills in English before they get a visa.

But language schools say the change has driven away business - with students choosing instead to study in countries like the USA and Australia.

Paul Clark, principal of the Language Training Centre in Eastbourne, said that the impact had been "massive".

"We rely on long term bookings of students who come for nine months or twelve months from countries like Korea and Columbia." said Mr Clark.

Stephen Lloyd, MP.
Stephen Lloyd MP: Visa changes are "a nonsensical idea".

"These students arrive in England with a low level of English and they stay here and study in order to further their studies at home or in order to go to university in Britain and they are just not coming." he said.

It is estimated that fee income in Brighton and Eastbourne alone could top £57 million a year, with £170 million being earned from services including lodgings.

Sue and John Wyndham have hosted students in their home for twenty years and say they would have to sell their home if numbers fell.

"It's quite crucial, because this represents now £14,000 a year." said Mr Wyndham.

The recent change in visa regulations - designed to crack down on bogus students - means that applicants must have the equivalent of an 'A' level in English before they can come here for residential study.

Eastbourne's MP Stephen Lloyd has attacked the new regulations and is drawing up an alternative scheme.

"You actually need to be able to speak English before you can come here and study English. It's a nonsensical idea." he said .

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