In yet another blow to higher education, the government has now proposed plans to cut the number of student visas granted to international students. They’ll do this by demanding a higher level language requirement. It’s intended to reduce the number of phony students getting into the UK and abusing the system. But the majority of students are genuine and deserve their place at a British university.
Obviously, this change would have a massive effect on the finances of universities and the economy as a whole, as international students put £5bn into the economy each year. And with funding being cut to higher education these students’ fees would be a great help when trying to make ends meat.
But putting money aside, a higher level of spoken and written English is only going to benefit everyone.
The focus of late seems to be on how much we are paying or are going to pay and how much the University is spending on our education not so much on the quality of that education we are recieving.
Yes, less clever and talented students will come to British universities if they do not have the required knowledge of English but is it really fair to charge international students a huge amount to be here when they can’t understand the content of the course? Surely they cannot be getting their money’s worth.
On the whole most international students I have met, and I lived with many in my first year, have an excellent grasp of the English language. It frankly puts my language skills, or lack of, to shame. But for the government to introduce this there must be some students who do not reach the level of English required.
For these students studying in Britian must be an uphill struggle. From understanding lecturers who not only don’t speak their native language but many who speak with a broad regional accent, to writing essays in a language which doesn’t come naturally and tackling technical terms that would not necessarily be taught, it can only be a challenge.
But, it is the money from these students that keeps many courses running. It is estimated that should this change in visa requirement come into place then many science and engineering courses would be forced to close and many departments would have to sack staff. Also. the loss of the money gained through international students tuition fees, will only push the already rising tuition fees for home students even higher.
If the visa requirement is going to be based on language skills of the students the same rules must apply for tutors and lecturers. Although they are very knowledgeable in their subject areas, a lack of spoken English has led to many a student not understanding the lecturer and therefore missing out on a valuable section of their education.
The question is what do we value more, the money that international students bring to British universities and the better facilities and range of courses that comes from this, or the quality of education that the international students are able to obtain whilst at university in Britain? I can’t help feeling that if universities continue to admit students whose language skills are less than the government plans to put into place then we are merely exploiting them for their hefty tuition fees, to soften the blow of the governments cuts in funding and to subsidise our own fees.