Vice-Chancellor sticks up for immigrants
Cambridge vice-chancellor Leszek Borysiewicz has passionately defended the importance of immigrant students.
The Welsh-born son of Polish refugees is worried Britain’s increasingly hostile tone towards immigration is discouraging foreign students from studying here.
In an interview with the Guardian, Professor Borysiewicz admitted Cambridge had not been affected by falling applications, but said:
“When I think of how my parents were welcomed to this country, I find that actually quite saddening.
“I do feel we are an open, democratic country and we should be setting the standards for the rest of the world, not hindering them.”
Most notably, the numbers of students coming to the UK from India fell by 38% between 2011 and 2012, and those from Pakistan by 62%.
Overall, the number of international students who enrolled on England’s universities in 2012/13 decreased by 4,595 in one year – the biggest fall in recent history.
Despite opposition from universities, international students are included in the government’s new migration target. The vice-chancellor, who found sanctuary in Britain after the Second World War, said he “abhorred” numerical limits on migrants, currently set at 100,000 a year by ministers. He said:
“Numbers hide the true potential benefit that people coming to Britain can actually have. Many of the most inspiring applicants come from children of immigrants parents.
“We should be looking at the capacity of individuals to contribute to our society here rather than have a political ding-dong over ‘we brought in 10,000 fewer than you did’.”
“A university such as Cambridge competes with Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, much more so than other UK universities, and therefore anything that prevents us getting the very best students I believe would be to the long-term detriment of the United Kingdom.
“One of Britain’s greatest strengths has been in the way it has assimilated so many different communities, and we are a very plural and open society.”
Professor Borysiewicz further raised concern over the decline in language learning. He blames this on the global dominance of English, combined with British “laziness” over picking up languages.
He added that while Cambridge still received “huge numbers” of language degree applicants with very high grades, there was a declining interest in the subject. Applications have fallen from about 580 in 2010 to 380 for 2014.
The ratio of applications to offers in MML is now almost two to one, well below the average across all courses at five to one. The vice-chancellor said:
“My concerns are that the biggest falls in application rates… are still in modern languages, and I think that is a problem, particularly in an international world.”
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