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We have seen it with the refugee crisis, we have seen it with the European Union, and we can see it now. Conservative policy has steered away from inward migration and multiculturalism, towards isolationism and a further raising of the Great British drawbridge. It is now international students who are now in the path of the Home Secretary and her desire to tighten borders for the security of the United Kingdom. Mrs. May’s controversial new policy aims at sharply reducing the number if international students coming here to study. If this is being done in the name of ‘national security’, I would be keen to know the Home Secretary’s definition of the term.
International students, regardless of income or origin, enhance our experiences at university; they broaden our way of thinking and contribute so much to our academic and personal development into young adults. We need not look any further than our own University to recognise the benefits of international students choosing to live and study in the United Kingdom. It is understood that international students attend university for the same reasons that British students do and that cannot be politicised. Unfortunately however, it is being. I believe the legislation being brought forward will not only damage the hopes and aspirations of international students, but also impinges on the university experiences of British nationals. We may hold various viewpoints on this matter, but this is merely the most recent example of the Tories becoming ever bolder on the subject of inward migration and I believe that this is truly the tip of the iceberg.
These excerpts from her address to the Commons give us an indication of the scale and scope of May’s intended policies;
We want to attract only the best and the brightest to Britain.
Mr Speaker, the package of measures I have outlined today is expected to reduce the number of student visas by 70 to 80 thousand – a reduction of over 25 per cent – and it will increase the outflow of foreign students after they have concluded their studies.
As Mrs. May puts it, student migration is the most significant migration route into Britain, and she therefore believes that it is of paramount importance that it is addresses. Mrs. May claims that “we have so called ‘students’ arriving at Heathrow who cannot speak English, nor answer basic questions about the content of their University course”. Of course, we cannot deny her this. It is true that there are many who cannot speak the language upon arrival on British shores. But, has the Home Secretary considered that that is not a failing of the student, who may desire nothing more than be able to speak English. As a nation, we must facilitate this desire. May also intends to strengthen the evidence that international students need to demonstrate that they have the financial means to fend for themselves. When did we become a nation which turned its back to potential of the individual? I personally know many international students at Lancaster University alone, who are not only exceptionally bright and enthusiastic, but also contribute directly to our economy and society. It is a shame Mrs. May does not have the time nor the desire to see first-hand what damage her policies would do, before she bulldozes them through Parliament.
The Home Secretary, in the conclusion of her speech to the Commons, stated that this policy shall “bring some sanity back to student visas” and will “protect our world class institutions”. Protection from what exactly? It seems that Mrs. May’s ‘protectionist’ stance comes with the cost of alienating and marginalising the international students who have come to the UK on the understanding that it is an inclusive and progressive society. One student claims that “Theresa May is addressing the issue recklessly; where she should be using a scalpel, she is choosing to use a hammer and it does nothing but put people off studying in the UK”. It is THESE concerns which are legitimate.
I am not being naïve. I understand that the system can be exploited, but this is by very few students, but May’s aggressive stance on the matter does far more than discourage this minority; it actively discourages the majority. How far are we to let the Home Secretary go in her slur campaign of international students? It seems grimly apparent that this government has no need for consensus or convention, but merely continues down a one-minded path. May needs to recognise that the universities themselves are just bricks and mortar; it is the students within them that achieve excellence and it is time that she adhered, for once, to the views of the many, not the few.