Fans of the BBC’s early evening quiz show, Pointless, will note this disclaimer on the credits of every episode.
It might be worth including this disclaimer on everything we produce right now, not just quiz shows. The political context in which we work is changing so quickly that no doubt by the time you read this, it will have been superseded by yet another new development.
UK politics at the moment feels like tuning into an overlong TV boxset. You get a few episodes in, and it doesn’t feel like it’s really going anywhere, and you’re not warming to any of the characters. But you’ve devoted a few hours to it, so you decide to watch one more episode and then something so jaw-droppingly dramatic happens that you’re sucked back in for the remainder of the season.
As I write this, the Minister for Universities has just resigned from a cabinet led by his own brother. A fantastic supporter of international students and internationalisation in education, Jo Johnson is widely respected and will be much missed those who work with in the sector. In the same week, we have witnessed the Father of the House and other longstanding Conservative MPs having the whip withdrawn and other MPs crossing the floor (in various directions). Such turmoil at the highest level makes it incredibly difficult for anyone working to deliver any meaningful policy change.
Any new administration is naturally keen to make its mark, defining its own policies to separate itself from its predecessor and put its own stamp on the country’s direction. For those of us trying to communicate with prospective international students, however, this presents a significant challenge. And that’s on top of the existing challenge we have in making sense of how Brexit might affect immigration for international students from the EEA and beyond.
At the start of this series, I mean, year, we had a new International Education Strategy, and proposed new immigration bill. We produced guidance for members and students, and have been working closely with various government departments to ensure international student experience was core to the implementation of the Strategy. Today, the progress of the immigration bill is paused, the Home Secretary has commissioned the MAC to review the Australian-style PBS system, and government has announced a European Temporary Leave to Remain policy.
Despite all this confusion, this administration has made it clear that it is supportive of international students. High profile and contradictory policy announcements make it more difficult to disseminate the positive messages. But it’s not an impossible task. UKCISA continues to work tirelessly to identify some clarity in the confusion. We focus on providing the facts and, where relevant, highlight where we think policy is likely to change in future. We can’t stop the change from happening at pace, but we can try to make sense of the policy context for international students and our members. Even if it is for only a few hours.
While the UK is experiencing an unprecedented situation, the team at UKCISA remains dedicated to providing clear communications for international students, whether they are already studying here, about to arrive to start their course or considering an application for 2020-21.
We continue to meet regularly with government across the four nations to ensure that the interests of international students and our members are represented. Our website is updated regularly to reflect changes in policy or guidance when they happen. (See our latest ‘no deal’ page and please share!)
It may be quite a job to keep up at the moment, but I can assure you, there are definitely no Pointless answers at UKCISA.