The UK government is making huge strides in their bid to reduce immigrant numbers to the UK to less than 100,000 annually. Published figures indicate that the estimated net migration went down 153,000 for the year ending September 2012, as compared to the 242,000 the previous year. This may be good news to the government; however, it has come at a cost. Ministers in their haste to keep out migrants through a change in rules may have kept out migrants who may have brought a number of benefits to the country.
A fall in international students numbers takes a large share of the immigration decline. The target on international students may have been a calculated move since they make up the largest single group of people arriving in the country for any given year. This move may contradict the country’s talk for “being open for business”.
The visa system abuse has led to the focus on students . This is because the current as well as the previous governments were attempting to crack down on the number of bogus colleges, and have them shut down, in essence cutting down on the student numbers coming to the country with no intention of studying. To date, the student visa regime abuse remains an issue, one which the Home Office needs to take care of.
According to the immigration minister, Mark Harper, a huge number of genuine students are being shut out alongside the fake students. The cuts come at a cost, since for UK, education is one of its most successful export sectors, even though this particular sector mainly works with bringing students to the country as opposed to sending out goods to other countries. An estimated £8 bn is what the international students contribute to the country’s economy on any given year. The same students make valuable contributions to local economies as well as the high fees that they pay to the colleges and universities. This means that for every international student that is being turned away, a bar, restaurant or college loses out on their money. This all comes at a time when the sources of growth are so few and far between.
Universities that were facing drastic cuts in funds were looking forward to international students to fill up their financial gaps. Universities are concerned regardless of the fact that by far, higher education has not been as badly affected as other sectors of education. The previous rapid growth trend has been put to a stop and a significant number of international university students come in via the UK FE sector. The numbers have fallen by almost 50%, meaning that the full impact of the new set of rules on universities is yet to be witnessed.
Of particular worry is that fact that a number of strategically important stem departments, such as maths, science, engineering and technology depend heavily on international students for their existence. What this means is that a student who was turned down could have been the star science student in a given university, and ultimately a lecturer in the future.
Foreign students, in addition to bringing the country immediate economic benefits, bring the country innovation, dynamism, as well as international connections which could benefit the country in the long run.
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