Are the UK's immigration policies detrimental to universities?

Posted by Michael Rainsford in

Concerns have recently been raised by a number of the UK's top universities that the UK is increasingly unwelcoming to foreign academics. Strict border controls and plans in the incoming Immigration Bill have been noted as leading drivers of this. Cambridge professors met with MP's and the Immigration Minister, highlights fears that the UK is turning away some of the best academics, researchers and students.

The Immigration Bill promises a tougher approach with short-term migrants having to pay for NHS care, landlords forced to make immigration checks on tenants and foreign criminals deported more easily. Amidst these proposals, the government continues to come under fire, having lost a number of MEP seats to UKIP in local elections at the end of May; an indication that the electorate has been drawn to a stricter stance on immigration.

A spokesman from Cambridge University added "More important, however, is the flow of ideas, the creation of networks and the spread of academic influence, which have had an incalculable value to Cambridge and to the United Kingdom. The rules surrounding UK border controls keep changing and lack flexibility. The UK is seen by our prospective students abroad as unwelcoming; recruitment to academic posts in a highly competitive market could also be damaged by a similar perception; the best will simply go elsewhere. A xenophobic reputation once gained is difficult to dispel."

Significantly higher tuition fees for international students over their domestic counterparts means that they are a prize catch for a university's coffers, often paying in excess of double the amount for the privilege of studying within the UK. Beyond this, the UK's leading institutions recruit and retain staff and students from overseas to benefit from diversity and maintain a reputation of schooling the world's most intellectual minds. This influx of talent and diversity in both culture and skill is a key contributor to the UK maintaining its position as a leading place to do business. It is no wonder therefore that the topic of immigration paired with it's impact on educational institutions is causing a stir at the top end of university league tables.

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