British educational institutions such as the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) are resisting the government’s plans to delete the PSW visa category from the immigration rules. It has been acknowledged by the Immigration Minister Mr Damian Green that Britain’s educational institutions, such as the LSE, constitute a pivotal part of the economy. Income generated from the educational sector amounts to over £5 billion annually and providers of reputed professional and academic courses in the UK have warned that the government’s plans to curtail the rights of students to work in the UK spell doom for the educational sector.
The potential damage to the UK will be twofold. Firstly, educational institutions will have to lay-off a large proportion of their teaching staff because international demand for courses in the UK will diminish. Moreover, since fewer overseas students will pursue their studies in the UK, less revenue in fees will be collected by the educational sector. These two whammies compound British academic institutions’ existing problem of fewer applications by home students in response to the government’s increase in home fees.
Ultimately, for Britain, ostensibly minute changes to the immigration rules based on irrationality will mean less national income and more unemployment. Moreover, it will take years to reverse the damage done to the UK’s image and reputation (built over the centuries) as a country which is at the apex of providing professional training, research and the transmission academic knowledge.
The LSE’s Academic Registrar Simeon Underwood has made no secret of the school’s views in relation to the Cameron government’s immigration policy. For the LSE, the changes in the immigration rules “are driven by fear” which is “a response to xenophobic attitudes in some parts of British society.”
For the LSE the deletion, or even amendment, of the PSW route is inherently problematic because 41 per cent of the school’s undergraduates and 59 per cent of the graduates can be classified as “international students”. Moreover, 30 per cent of the LSE’s fee revenue is derived from students who are subject to immigration control. Therefore, the school estimates that a strident immigration policy in relation to the PSW route will be more harmful to the school’s enrolment than the increase in tuition fees. The two taken together will administer a near fatal blow to the LSE’s vast global appeal. The school reported that 56 per cent of its international students had considered the PSW visa to be a decisive in committing to study at the LSE.
Thus, for the LSE the axing of the PSW visa amounts to losing “out on the best and the brightest by letting this draconian proposal become law.” The school also added that the PSW route was vital “to attracting top-notch applicants from developed and developing countries alike.” In sum, LSE takes the view that the government’s policy is a retrograde step in the United Kingdom’s immigration policy and Underwood, the LSE’s registrar, gave the Australian example of Monash University which had to sack 300 members of its academic staff when that country amended its post study visa rules. Underwood added that:
The damages will probably be greater among Britain’s top universities because it is often the high-flying students who are making conscious choices on whether to come here, or go to the States or Australia.
Wonder what George Bernard Shaw and the Webbs would make of the above?
(The author obtained an MSc in Anthropology and Development from the LSE in 2001. He was also granted a PSW visa on the strength of his LLB (Hons) degree from the College of Law which he was awarded in 2007. He also holds an American BA degree and would like, for the first time, to agree with the LSE. His resume is available here.)