Last week it was the UK food industry, now it’s the UK’s illustrious university sector: if reports and rumours are to be believed, the UK is enacting an immigration policy that seems more akin to self-harm.
Question: imagine you are applying for a position at a university; how important is it, do you think, that you know the university library’s opening hours? To reiterate, that’s before you have been accepted at the university. Or how important is it you know the name of the vice-chancellor? According to a report in the Guardian, students have been turned down for places at universities because they didn’t know the answer to questions such as these. There is one thing these potential students had in common, they were ‘would be’ international students.
This is what the Home Office has to say on this matter: “Claims the Home Office is modelling cuts to reduce international students to a third are categorically untrue. We want to strengthen the system to support the best universities – and those that stick to the rules – to attract the best talent. The British people have sent a clear message that they want more control of immigration and we are committed to getting net migration down to sustainable levels in the tens of thousands.”
And yet, the top brass at universities don’t seem to be seeing it that way. According to the Guardian, the Home Office is planning to cut the number of international students visas from 300,000 to 170,000. It quoted Professor Colin Riordan, vice-chancellor of Cardiff University as saying: “The Home Office seems to have decided that cutting international students is the only way of delivering the manifesto target of getting net migration down to the tens of thousands. But it doesn’t address people’s concerns about immigration. The problems people are seeing on the ground are certainly not caused by international university students or staff.”
Meanwhile, reports suggest that many students are focusing on their domestic universities instead, as it dawns on many that they are just as good as the UK institutions they were hoping to get into.
One of the UK’s key unique selling points is the strength of its universities, only the US has more universities feature in the global top ten or top 100.
Not only is this a vital source of income for the UK, according to the Guardian report, worth £10.7 billion, it has other major benefits. For one thing, it enables universities to invest more, with a corresponding knock-on effect on the quality of their collective service, which benefits UK students. Secondly, they help to draw in talent into the UK.
But we live in an age when immigration has become a dirty word, regardless of how overwhelming the evidence is that immigration boosts the UK economy, leading to higher tax revenue, and as a result leading to more money for the NHS and UK schools, as well as creating new jobs via foreign entrepreneurs settling in the UK. In the age of post-truth, with ideas reverberating around digital echo chambers, the government has decided it is better to pander to myths that are popularly accepted as true, rather than try and do what is best for the UK, and the majority of people who live in it.
Meanwhile, other reports suggest that the UK food industry is reeling. The Food and Drink Federation, the Association of Cereal Food Manufacturers and the British Beer and Pubs Association have collectively penned a letter to the Guardian suggesting that food prices in the UK will go up unless the UK has continued access to workers from the EU.
So, there you have it, the government, in an attempt to tell us that it supports the people and not elites, wants to shut off access to the UK from immigrants to all but the very elite universities and to the very best paid jobs.