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International borders won’t be the only obstacle non-EU students will have to overcome if a new plan to increase English language requirements is enacted. The measure, proposed by Home Secretary Theresa May, would introduce language barriers that could restrict many potential students from obtaining visas.
May planned the reform in hopes that students would be better equipped to study abroad, but some Lancaster University faculty members are alarmed by the potential change. Pete Macmillan, Vice President (Equality, Welfare and Diversity), shared concerns over the planned changes.
“I think the new proposal is very harsh,” he said. “Students with huge academic ambition could be rejected just because they’re not as good as the government wants them to be”.
Under the new standards, the UK Border Agency would raise the current minimum level of English from B1 to B2, or, “intermediate competency” to “upper-intermediate competency,” according to guardian.co.uk. This would affect non-EU students applying for tier four visas, which are needed to pursue post-16 education in the UK.
When asked for Student Registry’s response to the Home Secretary’s measure, Press Officer Vicky Tyrrell explained that they were in agreement with the 1994 Group’s reaction, as stated by the group’s Executive Director, Paul Marshall.
“The Home Affairs Committee has given a resounding endorsement to our argument that current proposals to reform student immigration could have serious consequences for UK universities,” Marshall said. “At a time of such uncertainty, when UK universities are grappling with severe funding cuts, the ability to recruit international students must not be damaged.”
The 1994 group is an organization made up of 19 smaller research-based universities to promote excellence in education throughout the UK. Macmillan explained that education here at Lancaster could be affected by a decrease in income, pointing out that international student fees far supersede those of home students.
University vice chancellors across the UK have also raised concerns that courses popular among international students such as science and engineering may be cut as a result of a decrease in non-EU students.
Cherry Ma, a third year student from Hong Kong, agreed that there could be a potential affect on these courses, noting that a lot of Chinese students whose English is less advanced than hers tend to study Accounting and Finance.
“These courses have low English requirements,” she said. “You don’t need to understand readings – you just need to know how to do equations.”
Ma explained that the new requirements would not have had much effect on her was she now to apply to study in the UK, for her school had an intense English programme that would have prepared her for such changes, but still offered her opinion of the proposal. Without sharing the apprehension of some of Lancaster’s faculty, Ma sees the reform as a positive change that would push international students to work harder to pursue their education.
“I thinking raising the requirement is a good thing because it means that people will have more respect of you”, she said.
Alua Aituova, a second year student from Kazakhstan, shared Ma’s optimism. Although Aituova mentioned that the new measure would adversely affect the quantity of students, she also foresaw its benefits.
“In one way it is good because it will encourage students to make the effort to study more,” she said. “A lot of people don’t like change, but if you look long term you’ll see results.”
A decision is yet to be made on the Home Secretary’s new visa proposal, which has not only spawned a difference of opinions, but a significant demographic awareness as well. Macmillan stressed the importance of Lancaster’s diversity when asked what international students meant to the University.
“Diversity is what makes it [Lancaster] so attractive,” he said. “It’s a special thing that so many nationalities are all in one place, on one campus – and we try to support that.”