Letter to Stephen Gilbert MP on Student Visas from LSE Students’ Union. Part 1 of 3: Making the UK Unattractive
Dear Mr Gilbert
Thank you for the productive meeting this afternoon. The purpose of this memo is to provide you with written documentation of the outstanding problems students identify in the Government’s proposed immigration and student visa changes.
I represent perhaps the UK’s most international research university student body: 80% of postgraduate students at the LSE are from outside Britain. As an LSE alumnus yourself, I know you understand that the proposed immigration policy poses a tremendous threat to the character and quality of education at the globally-renowned LSE.
Moving forward, I would be delighted to draft a joint letter with you for a meeting with Tom Brake MP, Co-Chair of the Committee on Home Affairs, Justice and Equalities. That meeting is still to be scheduled.
1. Policy disincentives abound to detract high-quality international students
If the details of the immigration bill are parsed, it becomes clear the proposed changes will put off international students from applying and attending British universities.
A. The end of Post-Study Work visas has a universal negative effect on the UK’s appeal
Losing PSW will have an enormous effect. Instead of providing a promise to students who earn their degree that they will be able to work in the UK, the promise is substituted with a risk: namely, if you come to the UK to study and earn your degree, you’ll need a £24,000 job lined up before you’re done. Even then, you’ll only get to stay a year—if you want more time, the job must pay an unheard-of for early professionals £40,000. LSE has gathered substantial evidence that students may simply no longer apply, and not only from countries where the British exchange rate coupled with international tuition fees is especially onerous.
Without the two-year unrestricted post-study work guarantee, the risk of attending university in the UK is much greater than anticipated gains. Hardly any jobs offer the income jump required to stay after just one year. A one-year of professional experience in the UK is neither enough to make a significant imprint on a CV nor repay the cost of tuition, frequently in the range of £30,000 total.
B. 5-year study limit restricts ‘the best and the brightest’
The 5-year study limit at sub-doctoral level is poorly conceived and will push away some of ‘the best and the brightest’ the policy aims to retain. To provide just two examples: (1) Students who study foreign language stay on their undergraduate course for 4 years, and often desire 2-year masters’ degrees. These students—whose capacity for global diplomacy and trade is enhanced by their multilingualism—will not be able to follow their desired sub-doctoral (perhaps leading to doctoral) courses in the UK. (2) Architecture, medicine, and other degrees take upwards of 7 years. These students would also be incentivised to look elsewhere for their programme.
C. Cutting off undergraduate dependents cuts off cultures
The practice of some religions, including Islam, necessitates travel with family members or spouses. The proposal to cut the undergraduate dependent route is nothing short of a clear and xenophobic warning shot to students who may very well excel in studies but practice a different faith. For even non-religious mature students, the inability to bring a spouse or child for an undergraduate degree would surely be considered a deal-breaker. Lastly, human rights legislation at the International and EU levels on the right to family life may mean there is little unchallenged room for free manoeuvre in this category. Judicial challenges would be expensive for the government.
D. No transparent standard has been used to determine the high/low risk categories
The Government has already put in place a formal high/low risk bifurcation for countries. The UKBA is to consider this when scrutinizing visa applications. Objectively, this is discrimination, so the question remains: How will this list of countries be generated, and on what quantitative evidence is it based? And most importantly, it is going to solve the problem of visa abuse, or merely delay visas, frustrate both bureaucrats and applicants, and encourage prospective students to select a school under more liberal immigration regimes, like Australia or Ireland?
Part 2: Economic Effects
Part 3: Politically Driven