The NUS’s international students officer, Shreya Paudel, writing in The Guardian (December 22, 2014), asks why the home secretary is trying to deter non-EU students, considering they contribute so much to the UK economy.
According to plans announced by Theresa May, the home secretary, foreign graduates will be forced to leave the country before they get a chance to apply for work here.
As international students’ officer at the National Union of Students (NUS), Shreya Paudel believes that these plans by the home secretary, are discriminatory, counter-intuitive and impractical. He believes that they appear to be yet another way of scapegoating non-EU international students, to fulfil the government’s target of reducing net migration.
In 2012, the post-study work visa, which offered two years of working to all graduates, was scrapped. This means that the UK is already restrictive for foreign graduates trying to find work in the UK.
Paudel says that the government is happy to accept the £8bn non-EU students provide each year in tuition fees. However, when it comes to providing these students with work opportunities, the UK is shutting its doors to them – eventhough the UK is suffering from skills shortages in many industries!
Paudel predicts that a dwindling number of international students will want to come here in future. After all, he says, many other countries, such as Germany, offer international students a better deal than the British government. He further believes that for the British government, international students are treated as cash cows.
From April 2015, the government also plans to introduce healthcare charges of up to £150 per year of study for international students from outside the EU. This is part of the government's attempt to combat “health tourism”.
Paudel notes that international students are already in a vulnerable position as they have little or no access to emergency funds, and now, the government wants to make their lives miserable.
Although the NHS fee may not appear huge, it’s symbolically pandering to an anti-immigrant rhetoric. It’s one of many measures - along with attendance monitoring, proposed landlord checks for migrants and credibility interviews - that negatively affect international students.
Almost all of these measures have come along in the last few years. Is this coincidental or is it a systematic attempt to reduce the number of non-EU students, because of the rise of an anti-immigrant sentiment in the UK?
Paudel believes that it is the latter. The proposed NHS fee is problematic, not so much because of the cost to international students, but more importantly because the government seems to be basking in the glory of how much it has done to reduce immigration - and this, by scapegoating non-EU international students.
There is a growing hostility being felt across the international student community. According to the National Union of Students, research last year found that over half (50.7%) of non-EU international students in the UK feel unwelcome by the government.
More importantly, clamping down on non-EU international students doesn’t make economic sense. Research by the University of Sheffield found that even when costs to public services such as the NHS are taken into account, international students make a net contribution of over £120m a year to Sheffield’s economy.
The recent visa restrictions proposed by the home secretary, Theresa May, and any further charges for international students, like the NHS charges, will adversely affect the public purse in the long run by closing the door to international students. International students already contribute a huge amount to the education sector, economy and local communities.
Shreya Paudel, the international student officer of the NUS, urges the government not to close the door on international students.