Representatives of UK universities, further education, student’s unions, pathway colleges and schools gathered at the University of Sheffield’s Student Union for the opening of UKCISA’s annual conference on 29 June.
Professor Shearer West, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, welcomed delegates to the University of Sheffield.
Professor West said:
“This is a university and a city that is deeply proud of its international students and warmly welcomes them. This week for example our city leaders, the heads of the two universities, colleges, the chambers of commerce and hospitals have reaffirmed their commitment to welcoming international students to Sheffield.
“We think universities are a place where ideas can be debated and exchanged, new knowledge can be created, and which benefits from the diverse backgrounds of our students and our staff, in which education and ideas are not constrained by borders. The intellectual life of our universities I think depends on our diversity and this is why we at Sheffield began a shared campaign to declare proudly that ‘We Are International’.”
Lord Bilimoria, President of UKCISA opened the three-day annual conference with a keynote address to over 500 delegates.
Lord Bilimoria said:
“When international students go back to their home countries, they become lifelong ambassadors for Britain. Everyone would be for the poorer if we did not have international students, and yet we have had a government, Coalition and Conservative, that has just done everything possible to send out exactly the opposite message.
“We should take international students out of our net migration figures today. Just doing that one move would send out such a positive signal to our whole world and to international students.
“In purchasing-power parity terms, it’s very expensive studying in the UK… If you can work for two more years after finishing your studies, you are contributing to our economy, and paying taxes, enriching our economy and getting two more years experience working and living in Britain which will build the bridges even more for future generations – it’s a win-win situation... 75 per cent of the British public say international students should be allowed to stay on and work after they graduate.”
Abdi-Aziz Suleiman, International Officer for the Labour Party, who co-founded the #WeAreInternational campaign while he was President of the Students’ Union at the University of Sheffield, said:
“There is no better place for international students in the world than the UK and I have seen first-hand the overwhelming support that international students receive at UK Universities. We know there is plenty of work to be done to continue to build an inclusive environment for international students in the UK. Right now, the work of UKCISA is more important than ever.”