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British universities fight to keep the door open for international students

By Danny Harrington

I have written numerous times in support of the UK maintaining an open-door policy for international students at all levels of formal education. International students bring a great wealth of additional knowledge to their destination country, allowing a cultural diversity that stimulates thought, discussion and debate. These enrich the educational experiences of all involved, students and staff alike. More importantly, they can lead to a more efficient innovation environment allowing us to solve or at least mitigate the problems we face as communities from the local to global scale. The world’s top universities may be regarded as primarily research institutions rather than teaching ones and all universities must follow research programmes. The importance of international student migration can be understated.

Of course, much of the news concerning student access to the UK at university level in recent years has been bleak (schools remain relatively unaffected), from the removal of right-to-work post-graduation in 2012 to the current review of how many student visas may be issued and by whom. Both student numbers and student rights have been reduced and are under further threat. It is a pleasure then to see two university Vice-Chancellors making a very public call on the government not to attack international students in this way nor to allow them to be dragged into the toxic public politics currently surrounding immigration in Britain. It is heartening also to read of their efforts to go out into the world and speak about the benefits of a UK university education and to carry the message that UK universities are still very much open to international students. Britains academics are not renowned for coming down off their pedestals like this.

In fact, many universities have been making increasingly high-profile visits overseas in recent years in a belated recognition that the UK has to compete for talent with the US, a number of other established university locations and increasingly excellent universities in Asia. These trips are also a chance to build collaborative research ties across international borders. It all ties into the fact, as understood by those of us who work in education, that learning is a collaborative process, and a global project, which has no need of politics and artificial barriers. That is why we must make every effort to overcome the barriers that politicians put in place.

Whether that be by lobbying for student movement or finding ways to allow access such as providing schooling online, we should all do our bit to encourage the continued mix of people and knowledge across the world.

ITS Education Asia runs UK and US curricula for high school and university both at its schools in Hong Kong and online using live-teaching. Contact us for more.

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