INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS do not feel welcome in the UK as a result of recent changes to immigration laws brought in by the recent coalition government and the current Conservative administration, according to a recent survey of over 3,000 international students in the UK.
The increasingly tough student visa regime is likely to cut overseas student numbers by 15 per cent, BBC News recently estimated. Currently the main barrier seems to be tougher English language requirements for international students (with even tougher new requirements proposed). BBC News reports that UK universities have been lobbying the UK government to remove overseas student numbers from the government’s net migration figures, but new English language requirements currently being considered could present a complex barrier to entry.
According to the Guardian newspaper, government measures adversely affecting international students in the UK include cancelling the post-study work visa in 2012, students needing proof of more savings when they arrive, tougher rules on academic progression, rising minimum salary requirements for Tier 2 (work) visas and restrictions on work rights for spouses and dependants. Moreover, UK home secretary Theresa May stated in October that overseas students should ‘return home as soon as their visa expires’ unless they have a graduate-level job.
James Richardson, director of international development at Sheffield Hallam University, told the Independent newspaper that the perception created by the UK’s attitude to international students was, ‘Come here, pay your fee and clear off. You have no value to the wider economy.’ The Universities UK association estimates that overseas students make a £7 billion contribution to the UK economy.
In a 2014 survey of 3,135 international students (the majority of them from outside the EU) carried out by the National Union of Students, just over half of respondents said that the UK was either ‘not welcoming’ or ‘not at all welcoming towards international students’, a view held by international PhD students in particular.
The ‘not welcome’ (or worse) comment was made by 61.3 per cent of students from Turkey, 64.5 per cent of students from Japan, 62.8 per cent of Nigerian students, 62 per cent of Indians and 56.1 per cent of Pakistanis surveyed. A notable 19 per cent of all non-EU students canvassed would not recommend the UK as a place to study to a friend or relative, a view shared by 35 per cent of students from India and 37 per cent of students from Nigeria.
While numbers of Indian students in the UK continue to fall (down from 23,985 in 2010 to 12,280 in 2012), visas for Indian students for Australia in academic year 2013–14 increased 38 per cent on the previous academic year, according to the Times of India, with the temporary graduate visa for post-study work reportedly a major attraction.