UK policy risks alienating students

July 01, 2013

More than half of international students in the UK feel less welcome as a result of the government's immigration policy, according to a survey conducted by Regent's University London

Regent's University London, which commissioned the research

The survey of over 500 overseas students at 105 institutions showed 52 per cent had a negative impression of the government's policy. The findings were relatively uniform across all regions, with 53 per cent of Asian respondents and 46 per cent of those from North America saying they felt less welcome.

Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Professor Aldwyn Cooper, Chief Executive of Regent's University London, said, "The signs are that the migration policy and the wider debate over immigration are fostering negative perceptions among foreign students about the UK as a place to study more broadly. The damage if such perceptions are allowed to take hold risks undoing the important work done by universities in building trust and forging long–term relationships overseas."

The survey also found that 40 per cent of respondents "mainly spend time" with other students from their home country, while around a fifth said they felt isolated.

"Internationalisation isn't just about overseas recruitment, but also developing a diverse and integrated student body and building partnerships that enable all students and staff to enhance their knowledge and skills, " said Professor Cooper. "The danger is that we fail to recognise the benefits that all students get from the chance to work with and share the outlook of those from different nationalities and institutions."

There was positive news in the survey for the UK's education brand, however. Some 94 per cent of respondents said the country's higher education is highly respected around the world, while 80 per cent were happy with the quality of the teaching on their course.

The results of the survey come as the Home Office is considering a cash bond scheme to deter "high-risk" visitors from overstaying their visas. Although details of the plan are still being finalised and some opposition to the scheme within the coalition government reportedly remains, it is thought that a pilot scheme could be introduced for India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nigeria and Ghana, with a UKú3,000 (US$4,571) fee being suggested. It is not clear as yet if this will apply to student visas.

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