An international student asks why some international students can earn while they learn but others can’t


Ketan Kishor Parmar is an international student from India.  He is studying at GSM in London. Writing in The Guardian (November 6, 2013) he says: "The government pushes privatisation and growth while holding international students like me back."

During the Conservative Party conference in September 2013,

Theresa May proudly announced during the Conservative Party conference in September 2013, that the UK government had cut the number of overseas student visas issued by more than 115,000.

Ketan says that such pronouncements ring loudly in the ears of international students.  He adds that new policies are coming thick and fast under May's tenure as home secretary.  But the announcements of other policymakers about higher education being a major source of capital for the UK economy are also being heard.

According to figures produced by the government, of the £17bn that education provides to the UK economy, £10bn comes from international students.

Ketan notes that there has been outcry over the way changes to international student visas. Such changes he believes are putting off potential students from choosing UK universities.  He explains that there is a fundamental flaw in Home Office policy.  This flaw he says, has been overlooked. "Why are legitimate international students like me being prohibited from working part-time while my fellow international students at public universities are allowed to work up to 20 hours a week?"  asks Ketan.

According to Ketan, this is a relatively new stipulation of the Working Rights for International Students (WRIS) policy and the reason for, appears to be far from logical. "Is this a case of discrimination against international students at privately funded universities?" he wonders. He goes on to say: "GSM London holds the same Tier 4 rank as any other publicly funded university, yet our visas say "work prohibited" while theirs stipulate a maximum of 20 hours per week during term time. We are even barred from doing voluntary work, let alone internships."

There is a good deal of research showing that experience outside classroom teaching hours is an important means of rounding out a degree and preparing students for life after university. Companies everywhere in the world - both in the UK and international studetns' home country -look favourably on CVs that show a breadth of workplace experience.

Ketan adds: "Our social life is also being hit. Just being invited to a fellow student's birthday party can be stressful as I feel the need to check my bank account before going."

Ketan notes that aA part-time job - even if it's for 20 hours a week will mean that international students can earn while they learn. "A little work experience will go a long way in personal finance terms and also ensure the experience we need to secure a full-time job back home after graduation. A part-time job acts as a stepping stone to something bigger in our lives. We can also put any savings we can scrape towards tuition fees to ease the burden on our parents" he says.

Ketan explains that the job could be anything - working in a call centre or waiting tables in a restaurant. Even roles like this build a sense of professionalism and work ethic, regardless of your future career path.  Ketan believes that prohibition on working part-time limits students' earning sources and restricts their chance of getting a well-rounded education. It is no secret that graduate employers want applicants with job experience.  Applicants with job experience are usually those who qualify for interview.  This makes the government's WRIS policy even more unfair.

Ketan says: "I don't want to be treated specially or different from international students at public universities, but on an equal footing. I appreciate that in the past, there was an issue of so-called 'bogus colleges' enabling people to obtain student visas in order to work in the UK illegally. But earlier this year in one of her many policy pronouncements, Theresa May said this issue had been dealt with and such 'colleges' shut down."

Ketan notes that although his higher education institution works in partnership with a number of publicly funded universities, its students are treated unfairly simply because it is not publicly funded. "The government promotes privatisation of the higher education sector under the banner of providing "greater choice for students", whether British or international" says Ketan.

"All students should have the same opportunities as well as choice. The government's stance pushes the sector towards privatisation and yet private university students are the ones being negatively affected. Again, I would ask, is this just a case of discrimination?"


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