Tuesday, 26 March 2013

On Immigration and Education

Over the last few years the UK Government has made it harder to get a residency permit for foreigners. It may be good or it may be bad, and the grand scheme of it is not the topic of this blog-post. But I will comment on the part of the policy that affects foreign students.

Recently one of my friends, a talented and hard working Indian national who has been an entrepreneur in Singapore’s media industry, was told that the UK institute she studies at was no longer allowed to be her ‘sponsor.’ That means she will have to shift her studies to another institute or leave the country with an un-finished education that the UK Government seems to have no intention of refunding. The institute she studied at was Point Blank Music College—a distinguished industry-training college with a long track-record in educating music professionals. The dispute is solely over clerical issues that has nothing to do with Point Blank’s well established courses. You can read BBC’s article on the case here.

Studio 1 at Point Blank

Leona Lewis, a Point Blank Alumnus

When the new rules for immigration came into play a couple of years ago I remember the concerns from some of my non-EU friends in UK academia. Some were worried whether they would be allowed to stay in the UK, even though they had been there for a long time and were carrying out Doctoral or Post-doctoral level research for their institutes.

It is important that we don’t loose track of what this case is really about. The UK government wants fewer mouths to feed in a time of economic hardship, which is understandable. But if it is not already obvious I shall present three reasons for why academics and the education industry should not be mixed up with just anyone who is competing in the labour marked:

1. Foreign Money
The UK higher education industry is one of the most distinguished in the world. People bring their hard earned or borrowed money of any currency into Britain and leave it there. Any further explanation shouldn’t be needed…

2. Strengthened International Positioning
With the high position held by UK universities it is lucrative for academic high achievers from all over the world to work in the UK education industry. This brings:
a) further competitive advantage for the learning-institutions.
b) a broader and more internationally aware academic staff that is more up to date on current global affairs.
c) a more seamless interfacing with other institutes, alumni and prospective students from around the world who are willing to pay for a UK education.

3. Research
International Post-graduate researchers will help to create more globally applicable research, which further strengthens the position of their UK institutes. They will also have access to publish their research through channels that would not otherwise be accessible for UK researchers. This will be due to both language and personal networks.

I hope the UK Government comes back to its senses ASAP and gives Point Blank Music College back its border license!

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