As part of a new government clampdown on immigration, Theresa May recently unveiled new plans to ban international students from working during their studies — replacing current laws enabling them to work up to 10 hours a week — as well as forcing them out of the UK upon graduation. This is in spite of the fact that the country continues to suffer from skills shortages in many industries.
The plan is part of the Conservatives’ pledge to cut net migration to ‘tens of thousands’ by 2020. About 121,000 non-EU students arrived in the UK from June 2013-14, while only 51,000 were reported to have left — resulting in a net influx of 70,000 migrants.The move followed a previous plan by May to force overseas students to return home after they have graduated, which had been blocked by the Tory leadership. The party’s previous pledge, from its 2010 general election manifesto, would have required students to leave the country and re-apply if they want to switch to another course or apply for a work permit.
students will be prevented from extending their studies in the UK unless they are registered at an institution with ‘a formal link to a university’
Recently, the Home Secretary also announced plans to tighten visa rules for foreign students. Further education visas will also be cut from three years down to two, and students will be prevented from extending their studies in the UK unless they are registered at an institution with ‘a formal link to a university’. In 2012, the post-study work visa, which offered two years of working to all graduates, was already scrapped, making life even harder for foreign graduates seeking employment.
According to BBC Newsnight, May had written a confidential letter to fellow ministers recently, arguing that universities should “develop sustainable funding models that are not so dependent on international students”. The government’s current long-term economic plan involves cutting the deficit, encouraging growth, creating jobs, boosting productivity, and increasing exports.
However, UK universities contribute to all of these and the recent move would only offer a crippling blow to UK education in general, a world-leading sector in which overseas governments, international sponsors and students are willing to pay good money for. It is estimated that international students contribute some £18 billion a year to the nation’s economy.
clampdowns on immigration regulations are making it harder and more expensive for British universities to attract the best students
In fact, such clampdowns on immigration regulations are making it harder and more expensive for British universities to attract the best students, in what is becoming an increasingly competitive international market. Foreign students are increasingly choosing alternative destinations for courses, such as medicine in China. There are also more universities across the world that cater to the demand for English-language higher education, offering courses taught in English and with generous financial incentives to boot. Meanwhile, major competitors such as the US, Australia, Canada and Germany experience increases in their annual student intake and continue to have ambitious strategies for further growth.
As a result, UK universities have already started to experience diminished financial margins on international student recruitment. These serve to support university research and the teaching of local students, the costs of which are principally borne upfront by the average taxpayer. The harsh reality, as a result, would probably mean that the UK is losing its competitive edge in spite of constant assurances from ministers that the ‘brightest and the best’ are welcome.
yet another way to scapegoat potential immigrants from non-EU countries in order to fulfil the target of reducing net migration
International students would also find such measures to be discriminatory, impractical, and counter-productive. It appears to be yet another way to scapegoat potential immigrants from non-EU countries in order to fulfil the target of reducing net migration. But above all, international students would understandably be outraged as to why they should be blamed for Britain’s immigration woes when it has been the Tories’ previous over-reliance on low-paid workers from the EU and zero-hour contracts that has led to the crisis today.
It would be hugely disadvantageous to further deny genuine talent to the country, in terms of boosting the economy and the growth of the education sector, for problems that have never been theirs to blame for in the first place.