Foreign Students will be Alienated by Brown’s Policies

Gordon Brown’s speech on immigration leaves foreign students in the dark and
universities in the lurch.

This week, Gordon Brown announced huge cuts in visas for foreign students coming into England to study in his first significant speech on immigration. The aim, outlined by Brown when he first entered number 10, would be to target those students who abuse the student system, using it to come into the country and work illegally. The new system will tighten rules on applicants.

Immigration is certainly proving to be a popular current debate, especially given the growing popularity of the BNP as we head towards the elections, yet it is more likely that Labour's attempt at rectifying the 'situation' will merely create bureaucratic and illogical systems of management, costing the tax payer money to implement. I suggest this policy will harm, rather than help our education system.

Vice-chancellors warned on Wednesday that the new system will leave thousands of university places unfilled, and create a back-log of students who have to defer for a year because they are caught up in the system.

This is a problem not only for foreign students who are left in the dark about their studies, but also for universities who rely on higher foreign tuition fees to top up the cost of educating home-grown British students paying reduced fees.

Currently, the government places a ceiling on the number of British students universities can give places to, because the government supplements the additional cost of educating British students with the student loans and grants system coming out of state coffers. This means that universities rely heavily on the tuition fees from overseas students to supplement their running costs.

However, the new system is creating such a back-log of unprocessed visa applications that it is likely that many foreign students will not be able to attend their university course, leaving universities seriously out of pocket.

Professor Steve Smith, the president of UUK said "It is of huge academic, cultural and financial benefit to the UK for these highly-talented people to come to our country to be educated. We are in danger of sending out a message that the UK does not welcome international students."

The current system may put off foreign students from applying to study here in Britain, meaning that the tightened purse-strings of British universities will cause them to decline and British students will suffer as a result. It will be impossible to compete with other countries in the job market if the education system starts to decline.

Instead of targeting potential students by making clumsy, long-winded policies that don't work, perhaps the government should tighten its control over failed asylum seekers and extend its energy into removing illegal immigrants and ex-students who are already here, rather than trying to force back potential 'immigrants' just trying to get an education, and paying the price for it.