What’s happening to UK Education? Who and what are driving the agenda? Will the “wrong” bring votes?

I have written on it earlier and am now seeing many comment on the same lines… A write up in Guardian shouted WE MUST TACKLE VISA ABUSE, BUT NOT AT THE COST OF GENUINE STUDENTS… It elaborates that “Tough talk on immigration will frighten away the talent our colleges need.” (See LINK)

UKBA and the various spokespeople have learnt the use of negative vocabulary to such an extent that it become difficult to imagine anything positive in UK being an attractive destination for International Students. Yes, when they summarize with delight that their clampdown and measures are “beginning to bite” and when they claim that there has been a “wide spread” abuse of student visas, you begin to notice that they are not really complaining or pointing a finger to the abuse as such but actually scoring a political point through all this that the system in place by the previous regime was leaky… Let me make it clear… An International Student, An education agent and An institution recruiting students are all legit in making use of the available options and liberties. The job of making the policy is not theirs and if they have made use of the options then they should not be held responsible at all…

Coming back to the topic… I agree with the writer that…

International students are much sought after across the world. They bring valuable cultural, diplomatic and economic benefit with them. They contribute £5bn to UK earnings each year, making a huge difference to local economies. The students come to the country and then leave, without recourse to public funds. Of those who stay, many end up teaching and carrying out world-leading research. In a deeply competitive and global market, inter–national staff make up a large proportion of university staff, without whom many departments would not be viable, or at best would be significantly weakened.

The above advantages are more of an immediate term benefits that international students bring. I would like to add that the long term benefits are far reaching too. There are political and diplomatic advantages that international students deliver. I noticed that one of the reasons why “two years ago”, UK received less negative press in India when it was facing the same issues as that in Australia over college closures, why the unhappy student stories reached Indian media coverage to lesser intensity and why the Indian political class did not focus on the UK issue to the same level as they did with the Ozzies… is the fact that most of the players controlling Indian media, Indian polity and also Indian academia were all possessing some British education themselves. If you noticed the NEWSHOUR debates in those times, you could hear the British Educated commentators and image-builders talk in quite nasty terms on Australian history and made it look so inferior to the British strengths in education. I want to also state that whenever I interact with the Head-Master of a leading Indian School who is a thorough Brit himself, I find a clear disdain for any introduction of Australia to his school. I felt offended when he told me offhand that the students from India will face “racial bias” in Australia. I just did not expect it from him as he should have clearly seen the hype that was built up in a purposive manner by certain players at that time. And if he did notice the inaccuracies, he as the senior most in a school with responsibility of using “Knowledge as Light” should have corrected the mis-perception in the student mind-space…

Returning to the topic, I do think that the damage that the UK policies are inflicting is far worse. It is gradually building the word in the country that “Indian students are NOT WELCOME” in UK anymore and this message is due to the direction that the Government of the country has taken. How sad indeed… I referred this as “colonizers being fearful of reverse colonization” in an earlier blog and I would maintain that this “fear” too is such a negative word and destined to bring in more fear. Let the unemployment begin at the Universities once the number of International students come down… God Bless the country…

Before I close, I want to share the quality of perspectives that often comments to write-ups bring to the table… The quoted article had a comment by a reader:

The abuse of so-called “student” visas has been an open scandal for years. Hundreds of thousands of people with negligible skills and no intention of studying got in this way. Hundreds of bogus “colleges” flourished.

During all this time, reputable universities sat back and did nothing about it, as though it did not concern them. Well, they are now reaping the bitter fruit of their poisonous indifference. If you have no morals and turn a blind eye to scams, don’t be surprised if when the crackdown comes everyone things you are as bad, or almost as bad, as the scamsters themselves.

As to your point about genuine foreign students, you say:

“International students are much sought after across the world. They bring valuable cultural, diplomatic and economic benefit with them.”

I agree with this up to a point. But many postgrad science and engineering courses in the UK are now 100% Chinese. Is that really what we want? To be a knowledge giveaway for our industrial competitors? What about educating our own slightly-less-talented youth? Surely the national payback from that is many times higher than the once-off fees from the foreign students ?

And this is how another reader rebutted the above comment:

Another unthinking example of our current Government’s habit of ruling by gimmick without the wit to think through the consequences.

By carelessly making all foreign students feel unwelcome they risk a substantial loss of much needed national income. They risk the closure of many university departments who remain financially viable only through the high fee income from foreign students, and, although hard to quantify, they will diminish our global influence through the ‘soft power’ accruing from this sector.

As usual, they formulate and express policy not because it is in the interests of this country, but in order to appeal to the prejudices of the ill-informed (as illustrated already by some of the comments above).

“But many postgrad science and engineering courses in the UK are now 100% Chinese. Is that really what we want ?”

Hardly 100% I am sure – but it’s a sure bet that British students in these departments would be denied the opportunity of they weren’t kept viable by the foreign intake.

At least the Chinese Government have the wit to seek the very best education for their brightest – unlike ours. The high proportion of Chinese post-grads in many places is simply due to the fact that the necessary finance is available to them – unlike our own students for whom the provision of grants is woefully and short-sighted inadequate.

Don’t you agree that the comments to an article or even a blog are so useful in completing the story… This is where the internet is scoring over the print…

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