Kicking Students Out of the Country is Hugely Short-sighted
Sir James Dyson, the billionaire entrepreneur behind the bagless vacuum cleaner, is the latest voice to criticise Home Secretary Theresa May’s plan to kick out foreign students as soon as they’ve graduated.
“Theresa May… wants to exile foreign students upon qualification from British universities,” he wrote last week. “Train ‘em up. Kick ‘em out. It’s a bit short-sighted, isn’t it? A short-term vote winner that leads to long-term economic decline.”
British universities rely on foreign students financially as they pay large amounts in fees. And once the students graduate, they use the skills and knowledge they’ve acquired to help boost Britain’s economy, by working in the UK. It does seem short-sighted to kick them out in order to pander to anti-immigration rhetoric.
It is already not the best time to be, like me, an international, non-EU citizen studying in the UK, thanks to the abolition of the Post-Study Work Visa scheme in 2012. Before then, new graduates were given a further two years to work in the UK. Now they are given four months and, if they find a job, can switch from student to work visas. Ms May wants to scrap this, making students leave as soon as they graduate and apply for jobs in the UK from their home country.
Non-EU students can be easily kicked out as they aren’t protected by the EU’s freedom of labour agreements. Thus they are an easy target to tackle immigration.
In this climate, it’s no wonder that, according a Universities UK report, the number of international, non-EU student population declined by 1 per cent in 2012–13. Had enrolments increased yearly at the 2010–11 rates, the British economy would be £370 million richer, the report claims.
A larger decline is witnessed when we look at individual nations. According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency the number of Indian students studying in UK has reduced considerably, despite their numbers increasing in other countries — it fell by around 49 per cent between 2010/11 and 2012/13, and is expected to fall further unless there’s a major policy reversal.
Universities minister Greg Clark, who travelled to India last November, seems to have realised the importance of this upsetting trend.
He sought to reassure Indian students that they “will get a very cordial welcome” in the UK. However, he failed to allay concerns about the post-study work visa, which is a major causal factor for the decline in the Indian (and international) perception of UK as an ideal destination for higher education. The National Indian Students’ Union (UK), is running an online campaign to have the visa reinstated, claiming that the number of Indian students has “plummeted… as they feel a sense of hostility in the UK given the restrictions.”
There seems to be a glimmer of hope, however, if, like me, you’re an international, non-EU student at a Scottish university. The Smith Commission’s report, which recommends the extent of powers that should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament, states that the five Holyrood parties have decided to act together with Westminster and “explore the possibility of introducing formal schemes to allow international higher education students graduating from Scottish further and higher education institutions to remain in Scotland.”
In this day and age, where the market is already down and career prospects look bleak, the last thing international students want to face is a government policy making us feel unwelcome. The question on whether to reinstate the post-study work visa is an integral part of the immigration debate, and I’m glad that at least Scotland is treating it as such.
Note: A huge majority of the British public think international students shouldn’t be kicked out too — a Universities UK report titled ‘International students and the UK immigration debate’ found out that 59% of the public think that the government shouldn’t reduce international student numbers, while a whooping 75% think that international students should be allowed to stay and work in the UK following their graduation. Thus, it’s safe to say, that the government’s immigration policy is hazardously aimed at the wrong cohort.