Thursday, 27 January 2011

Guest post

Here's an experiment. I've had a guest post sent into me by a long time fan and admirer of my blog*, who wants to say something about an issue I've ranted about myself. So I've decided to post it up here unedited and see what you think. If you like it please do say and I'll try and get more guest posts arranged**. If not of course then do let me know and I'll not. This is from Tom Conway.

*Read university friend.
**If you do this you are essentially saying you like my blog best when I dont write it... and I will cry.

The Border Agency and Overseas Students

This morning, one of the university's maths fellows alerted me to this consultation:

A Japanese academic had expressed to him his concern over the government's plans to change the rules over whether or not students from abroad could come to Britain, how long they could stay and whether their families can accompany them. The proposals can be found on the home office website (1), but the main bullet points are:

  • reducing the number of people coming to the UK to study below degree level;
  • introducing a tougher English language requirement;
  • ensuring that students wishing to extend their studies show evidence of academic progression;
  • limiting students' entitlements to work and their ability to bring in dependants; and
  • improving the accreditation process for education providers, alongside more rigorous inspections.

While it could be argued that there are merits to reducing abuse of the system, which is what the government is trying to do here, I fear that the main effect of the proposals will be to give out the message that the UK doesn't like foreign students. This could have deep repercussions, not only in the Universities like Cambridge (the fellow told me that the Vice-Chancellor believes this could be more damaging to the university than the £9000 tuition fee), but also in our sixth form and further education colleges.

If the UK is to be a world class education provider, which I feel it can and should be, it must be welcoming foreign students and academics with open arms. This should include allowing them to bring in their families and allowing their partners to find jobs, allowing students who graduate to look for and apply for jobs without having to return to their country of origin and not discouraging students from taking further study. Quality students come from all over the world and we want them in the UK, especially when there is rising competition from up and coming universities in Hong Kong, China and Singapore, as well as the continuing dominance of American Universities.

And it isn't just our universities that are seeking foreign students. Two further education colleges near my home town, Worthing College, where I did my A levels, and Chichester College, are desperate to attract overseas students. (2), (3) Chichester College goes as far to hire a team to visit countries throughout the world and give presentations to attract students.

But wait, I hear George Owers cry, what about social mobility? Why should we care that foreign students are discouraged from applying to UK colleges and universities when working class teenagers are put off even more? One reason Worthing College, Chichester College and Cambridge University want to attract overseas students is because they help make up a budget shortfall. Worthing College charges £6450 per year (4), Chichester College charges £5950 per year (5), Anglia Ruskin charges between £9500 and £16500 per year (6) and Cambridge University charges between £11,000 and £26,000 a year.(7) Even when the £9000 tuition fees are introduced in Cambridge University, overseas students will still pay a lot more. This makes sure the University can afford to give bursaries to underprivileged students and that Worthing College and Chichester College can afford to deliver quality education at a time of budget cuts. To cut both the funding from government and to reduce the income brought in through foreign students would greatly damage the ability of poorer students to achieve a good education.

Also, discouraging foreign students from getting jobs is an exceedingly effective way to reduce tax income. Foreign graduates aren't 'taking British jobs', they're creating jobs in the UK in businesses that would otherwise be overseas, in Hong Kong, Zurich, Taiwan or Singapore. We need to keep tax revenues high to reduce the level of budget cuts.

So, that link at the top is an important one. Click it and fill in the survey if you want to, it is a horrible, biased, overly technical consultation. But I hope this post has made you think more deeply about how important this issue really is.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feedback always welcome.