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‘Ugly’ Tory politics ‘aggressively mean’ to foreign students

Image: LiliYang edu [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Higher education professor lashes out at UK Home Office-commissioned visa review

The UK government is employing the “ugly…politics of the gutter” by being “openly and aggressively mean” to international students in a bid to win votes at the next general election, the director of the Centre for Global Higher Education has said.

Speaking to Research Professional News, Simon Marginson said the whole higher education sector in the UK is expecting the reduction or abolition of overseas graduates’ post-study work rights after the Migration Advisory Committee publishes its review of the graduate route visa later this month.

“After international students have paid the world’s highest fees, the government will block them from earning money to pay back their loans,” said Marginson, who is also a professor of higher education at the University of Oxford. “Does anyone seriously think that the job markets in Nigeria or India can generate equivalent earnings? British-level fees need British-level earnings.”

Concerns over the review

Home secretary James Cleverly commissioned the “rapid” Migration Advisory Committee review in March. Universities have expressed concern that the review, which will report by 14 May, is being carried out in too hasty a fashion, while others have expressed fears that, regardless of its conclusions, the review will be used as justification for tightening visa rules.

“This is not going to end well for the international education industry,” Marginson said. “But the government does not care about good policy anymore. They are laser focused on their own political survival. And they have decided that the way to make one group of people feel good about themselves and vote Tory is to be openly, aggressively mean to another group of people—in this case foreign students who have paid mega-fees to the UK already. It is highly divisive. It is ugly. It is the politics of the gutter.”

Cleverly has said that while the graduate route has helped to attract “bright international students to the UK and to work in our economy post-study”, he is concerned that some of the demand for visas is “being driven more by a desire for immigration rather than education”.

He has also argued that UK universities’ reputation for quality could “easily be put at risk if evidence emerges of immigration abuse or visa exploitation which are not tackled”.