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September 4, 2012

The UK Border Agency's London Met Decision is Damaging and Counterproductive

By Spear's

Much like a cornered animal, UK BA responded to political stress by lashing out violently, erratically and essentially, counter-productively.

The UK Border Agency’s decision to revoke London Metropolitan University’s licence to accept foreign students was typical of the current government’s attitude towards immigration — and indeed an attitude shared by Labour before it too. Much like a cornered animal, UK BA responded to political stress by lashing out violently, erratically and essentially, counter-productively.

London Met, I agree, should have had stronger mechanisms in place to ensure that its enrolled students were in the UK to study. But revoking its license now, and applying this to current students is foolish. The first to suffer will be the 2,700 students who must either find another university to enrol in or face deportation. Many will have struggled to raise their university fees, and are now facing the prospect of these going to waste.

It’s not only these students who will suffer. London Met will be affected too – it’s not clear how financially viable the University will be if it cannot make money from foreign fees.

London Metropolitan University

But — and this is the argument most likely to resonate with the average voter — the UK will suffer too. The British education system is one of our finest exports. As we’ve written about in Spear’s, UK public schools are setting up branches all over the world.

International students in the UK contribute £5 billion a year to our economy. If prospective students fear that a risk to studying in the UK is that you might be deported before your course finishes, they will be more likely to study elsewhere — the US, Australia, New Zealand and indeed, English-language Universities all over the world, will be more than willing to take them on instead.

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The benefits of students studying in the UK is not only economic but diplomatic and political too. The UK government runs Chevening Scholarships for promising students throughout the world to study in the UK — understanding that when these bright students return to their home countries and take up influential positions in civil society, government and business, they are likely to have a sympathy towards Britain and our great traditions of democracy, pluralism and tolerance.

In this context, the response to a fear of some people abusing the system is entirely disproportionate. A more strategic, considered response from the UK — involving open, frank discussions with Universities as to how best they can fulfil their responsibility for monitoring their foreign students — would be far more effective than this hugely damaging knee-jerk reaction.
Read more by Sophie McBain

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