International students – in the news
Quite probably on the back of the Windrush saga – and concerns that individuals have been unjustly treated – you may have seen two stories in the press recently concerning international students and it would appear that they might, once again, be moving up the agenda.
- We were firstly asked to help with some briefing, prior to the recent Newsnight feature on 25 April, on the thorny issue of ‘immigration bail’ – in which students applying for refugee or asylum status or appealing against decisions - have increasingly received ‘study prohibitions’ meaning they can no longer start or continue with their courses which seems grossly unfair.
We had, of course, been picking up on this for some time as numbers of members had reported that this was on the increase and causing real and significant distress. The girl on Newsnight who had been stopped from completing her ‘A’ levels was apparently just one example amongst many.
We have also, of course, been in touch with the Home Office (with Universities UK also adding their concerns) and we understand that as a result of all this new Guidance is currently being prepared to ensure it does not continue to happen in the future.
- Secondly the very sad saga of so many students having their visas curtailed and having to leave the UK following the Panorama expose of extensive cheating in a language test in 2014, has resurfaced with articles in the FT and then picked up in the Guardian, Times, Evening Standard and elsewhere. As the reports have said, no-one disputes that abuse did occur - and on a major scale – but there are very substantial continuing concerns that some and possibly very many students had their studies interrupted and their lives damaged without adequate or possibly any real proof of individual abuse.
Implications for future policy
So putting the two stories together – and yet more reports that so many ministers and Parliamentarians understand the importance of international students and are concerned at current policies – there now seems to be a recognition:
- that there may well have been an ‘over-robust’ attitude to students and compliance over recent years;
- that current policies, attitudes and processes now need to be reviewed; and yes,
- that as a matter of urgency and principle (and indeed self interest given their economic and academic importance), that international students do now need to be taken, not out of the statistics, but out of the net migration target.
Of course in parallel decisions will be needed soon on what sort of immigration system we might develop in the longer term, whether and how EU students will be affected, whether they might have some form of special status or (rather worryingly) whether some form of adjunct to or sub set of Tier 4 (with its massive complexity) might be introduced.
And then in some ways linked (but in some ways separate), the equally challenging issue of whether, again in the longer term, we wish to continue with a system in which EU students are charged much less than non EU students – a hugely attractive approach for both EU students and institutions over the last nearly 50 years.
Or, unless there were special factors (such as say reciprocal or trade agreements), whether there remains, as a matter of principle, sufficient justification for charging more to students often from less economically developed countries that we charge those from more economically developed ones within the EU?
UKCISA's Board (and elections)
Our Board meets at the end of this month and will be having a first discussion on these questions and then I would much expect them to come up for discussion again at our Anniversary Conference next month (see below).
I hope that many of you will also have seen our recent notice saying that there will be four vacancies on our Board from 1 July and inviting members to express interest in standing for election. In particular we will be looking for Students Union and/or FE nominees as we have reserved spaces for these categories – deadline is 22 May.
However if anyone is not too sure about standing for Board election (and possibly competing in a ballot) but might be interested in helping us by serving on our Finance and General Purposes Committee instead, we can co-opt anyone suitable directly onto this so please do contact my colleague and our Director of Finance and Resources, Bhavesh Kotecha (Bhavesh@ukcisa.org.uk) who’d be delighted to hear from you.
50th Anniversary Conference
So finally just a reminder that if you have not already registered for what promises to be a really significant opportunity to debate policy, hear and compare multiple examples of good practice and help to celebrate 50 years of UKCISA and 50 years of helping to ‘Change lives for good’, please do book soon (as over 300 have done so already and some sessions now nearly full).
There will be eminent keynote speakers, a special Newcomers’ event , briefings from UKVI and FCO colleagues, some 60 parallel sessions from practitioners and peers and from a range of external speakers including Pennington Manches LLP (one of our main conference sponsors), plus other law firms, Aaron Porter from Hotcourses (on recruitment and the very latest perceptions of the UK), leading language test providers and many others.
And even an opportunity to help us celebrate by signing up to be in the UKCISA choir, due to perform at our closing event (and doubtless destined to live on in memories for many years)!!
Dominic Scott, Chief Executive, UKCISA