The Home Secretary’s proposals, as reported in The Sunday Times on 21 December, to ‘send home’ foreign graduates at the end of their studies, risk fuelling the perception overseas that international students are unwelcome in the UK. Exporting Education UK (ExEd), a broad-based group of UK-based companies and organisations involved in education as an export, has repeatedly called for a more balanced approach to student visa policy which ensures that robust controls are in place but also encourages and enables talented students from around the world to choose the UK for their education.
Graham Able, Chair of ExEd, said: “The Home Secretary’s proposed policy would send precisely the wrong message to internationally mobile students considering the UK for their further studies. It would also continue a worrying trend of outsourcing to universities and colleges the responsibility for core functions that should properly sit within the Home Office. Her suggestion that education providers should be made responsible for ensuring non-EU students’ departure would turn academic administrators into border police and divert precious resources away from the central purpose of academic institutions, which is to educate.
“It is baffling that a senior government minister would risk undermining an £18 billion export industry and our country’s reputation abroad by publicly floating such a damaging policy in this way. The proposal itself would do nothing even to address the actual threats which exist to immigration control. Last week’s report on ‘Overstayers’ by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration highlights a real challenge for the government in finding and removing migrants who have overstayed their visa. The Home Secretary would do well to focus her department’s energies on the effective operation of the current system rather than be distracted by further unhelpful tinkering with rules which have already undergone such drastic changes.
“The current Tier 2 visa route for skilled workers clearly acknowledges the benefit derived by the UK from skilled foreign graduates. The consistent message from employers, particularly in STEM industries, has been that the UK needs these graduates, not only to fill existing skills gaps but also to help grow the companies that will provide work for UK citizens in the future. The Home Secretary’s proposals would see the UK provide a world-class education to talented young people, only to send them away to pass those new skills and knowledge to our international competitors. We urge the Home Secretary to consult with her cabinet colleagues, rethink these plans, and ensure that the UK continues to attract the brightest students, retains the best graduates and allows them to play their part in growing our economy for the benefit of us all.”
Notes to editors:
About Exporting Education
Exporting Education is a broad-based group of UK-based companies and organisations involved in education as an export (either educating foreign students in the UK or abroad) who have come together to promote the value of the sector to the UK and its contribution to the UK’s long term competitiveness in the global economy. The group is known as ExEd for short. The group currently has over 20 members, who span the full range of education from Pre-preps, Prep schools, High Schools, Sixth Form Colleges, FE & HE colleges, Professional Colleges and Education Publishers, all of whom are exemplars of UK education.
The value of UK educational exports
The UK education export market is currently worth around £18 billion per year to the UK economy, with potential for year on year growth.
Teaching international students also boosts the UK’s soft power abroad and gives British students a unique opportunity to interact with and understand those from different cultures.