As somebody studying in my home country, I have always felt a respect for my fellow students from other countries taking the plunge and coming over to Britain to learn. They have to come and live in what for many is very unfamiliar surroundings, in some cases many thousands of miles from home, also having to learn a foreign language to a university-required level. It must take an amount of effort that I can only imagine.
So when I heard in December of Home Secretary Theresa May’s plans to force students to reapply for new visas almost immediately after graduating I was disappointed. Can you imagine being a foreign student coming back after the Christmas holidays and having an unpleasant feeling of being under scrutiny by this government, simply for wanting to study in a country that is not your own? Being used, for what the timing seems to suggest, as a tool to bait voters with for the looming election.
May fires back at her detractors characteristically of all politicians who are looking to curb immigration with large numbers, or should I say more importantly large numbers that have been estimated. 600,000 foreign students a year by the 2020s, apparently. Immigration and all the politics behind it, is about the numbers, those eye-catching figures, often devoid of key explanation and context. Now students with all their potential are relegated to a statistic used in the base slogging match that is election campaigning.
I can’t speak for the whole of the immigration debate, the untameable, ugly, ballooning giant that it has become, but I can speak for students and as I said they have potential. Back in March 2014 research released by the think tank the Centre of Entrepeneurs 14% of business set up in the UK were by migrants.
What I said before about figures aside, ambitious students with their newfound knowledge and ideas, thanks to our universities, were no doubt part of this 14% and could increase their contribution if the government gave them a chance. If graduates feel they are unwelcome in this country by politicians and their instinctively short-sighted ways, they may take their potential elsewhere. As they did back in 2012 when there was a 21% drop in overseas students amidst a scandal over the stripping of London Metropolitan University’s right to admit non-EU students.
I, like many other British-born students, may want to study abroad and perhaps work abroad if given the opportunity. I don’t want Theresa May making it harder for people to do the same in Britain. The fact that they pay a lot more for their tuition fees than British nationals do, suggests that this country will take your money but then they will kick you out after you’re done paying.
Getting yourself on the starting point of your career in this country takes much more than the time the conservatives are promising to limit foreign students to after they graduate. What the government needs is a little faith in foreign-born graduates, the carrot not the stick to retain the highly skilled immigrants that countries like ours depend and thrive upon.
The government should do more to support foreign graduates in these competitive times.