The Government's Stance On Non-EU Students Assumes We're All Filthy Rich
The Debrief: ...but some of us actually work for a living
In an announcement yesterday, immigration minister James Brokenshire said that from next month onwards, non-EU students who come to study at publicly funded further education (FE) colleges will ‘lose the right to work for up to 10 hours’.
As a non-EU student from Malaysia who’s not swimming in money (which always seems to surprise people for some reason), this worries me. Yes, I’ve been lucky enough to have parents who could afford to pay for my education, but I do what I can to help ease the burden. I work on the weekends, sometimes until midnight, and take on admin jobs once or twice a week whenever I can. I’ve worked 14-hour days, rushing from one job to the next. It’s bloody hard but every bit helps.
Twenty-seven-year old American student, Allison Gilbert from Goldsmiths College agrees: ‘The work restrictions on my visa already make me a very weak candidate for hire, as part-time jobs in London are asking for 23-28 hours a week. I’ve spent eight months applying to jobs, successfully interviewing, and then not getting the position because of the visa restrictions.’
That’s not the only bummer. In the new ‘crackdown on visa fraud’, as the Home Office valiantly describes it, new measures include preventing non-EU college students from applying to stay and work in the UK when they finish their course, unless they leave the country first.
According to the Home Office, these measures are to stop non-EU students from using student visas as a ‘back door to the country’s job market’.
I obviously missed this magical ‘back door’ visa memo, because I certainly never thought of it. I pay over £16,000 in fees (double that of home and EU students), pay rent and UK taxes, buy food, products and goods from the UK. And in a bizzare twist, as a member of the Commonwealth, I have the right to vote but not the right to work. That to me seems ridiculous and unfair.
There were more than 110,000 foreign students studying in Britain in 2011. In the last 12 months, this number has dwindled to just 18,297. The fall is partly the result of Theresa May’s attempt to reduce annual net migration to below 100,000. Ministers also say it’s because of a drive to reduce visa fraud and close down hundreds of ‘bogus colleges’ – which was done back in 2012.
Chair of the UK HE International Unit, Colin Riordan, said: ‘The government’s proposals to restrict the opportunities for post-study work appear to be designed to discourage international applicants from choosing the UK as a place to study. The government urgently needs to rethink its approach to international students and recognise that the only viable solution is to stop counting students as migrants.’
The chief executive of the Association of Colleges responded to the announcement, saying: ‘The government risks seriously restricting the UK’s ability to attract international students. In blocking the route from further education to university, the government will do long term harm to the UK as an international student destination and this policy needs urgent reconsideration.’
He also added that colleges have ‘well-established and stringent attendance monitoring systems in place’ in preparation for potential abuse and that the sector is keen to see any evidence of it being used as a ‘back door for bogus students’. I’m keen to see this evidence too.
Further, a report from Universities UK in 2014 found that international revenues, including fee payments from non-UK students, amounted to nearly £5.7billion, making up over 20% of all university income. Non-EU students paid £3.24billion in tuition fees, and spent an estimated £3.42billion off-campus. In short, we spend a fuck-ton of money here and contribute greatly to the economy. So why the rush to get rid of us?
The sweeping measures feel like international students are being punished to please the anti-migrant brigade, and is just as hurtful to the future of the UK as it is to foreign students like myself. In reality, only 6% of a sample of students applying to study in the UK thought about staying on, a study in 2013 found.
‘I think the government has a choice to make about whether the UK is truly as multicultural as it fancies itself to be. To be genuinely multicultural requires a representation of people on a broad spectrum of race, gender, religion, ethnicity, and economic standing,’ says Gilbert. ‘Education is a right, not a privilege, and neither is working to support oneself.’
Can I get an Amen?
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