Dreams of studying in the UK up in smoke

August 03, 2016
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With the UK deciding to leave the European Union change has been paramount  in the country. The new Prime Minister Theresa May, seeks to tighten regulations on UK universities in an effort to reduce the number of migrants entering the UK.

The cracking down on international students:

Theresa May UK PM

By scrutinising visas issued to university applicants, the UK hopes to reduce the number of international students entering as the government believes that international students play a role in the patterns of migration into the UK. A crackdown on higher education institutions is likely as authorities claim that many of these institutions are the means by which economic migrants enter the country.

May has also advised universities and other higher education institutions in the UK to develop a new model that would sustain the financial needs of these institutions without the need to depend on international students.

It is noteworthy that the current situation surrounding student visas in the UK is considered to be one of the toughest in the world and many view it as an unwelcoming situation as it is. Experts in the higher education sector believe that the UK will lose hundreds of thousands of international students if the UK study visa regulations get tougher.

Actions considered by the new department of education will include:

  • Preventing universities from marketing their courses as opportunities for students to work in Britain
  • Tighter controls on so-called Mickey Mouse degrees at poor performing universities
  • Further protocols to ensure foreign students return home after finishing their studies

A number of officials within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills have objected and attempted to resist the efforts of the prime minister because they believe that international students contribute to the economy of the country and any move that calls for the removal or the limiting of international students may have unforeseen repercussions in the future. Interestingly, the department was closed down and its chancellor  George Osborne sacked in an effort to force universities to revamp the Department of Education.

Oops

UK Border Force

According to Estimates by the UK authorities, 20% of international students in the UK overstay their study visa.

When May was Home Secretary, nearly 50,000 international students were wrongly deported as the BBC Panorama exposed an English test cheating scam which ended up incriminating all students who had taken the test.

The documentary uncovered fraudulent activities involving several institutions where preliminary evidence suggested “invalid and questionable” tests. The investigation resulted in the revoking of licenses of nearly 60 educational institutions and the deportation of tens of thousands of international students who had obtained the TOEIC certificate in the past.

However, recent developments revealed that the evidence used by the then Home Secretary were frail and suffered many shortcomings. The evidence were further scrutinised when subjected to thorough examination which resulted in the questioning of May’s hasty actions.

The landmark verdict could result in the return of the deported students and claims for compensations due to incrimination based on insufficient evidence, humiliation, and headlong decisions.

Fees to increase

Fees to Increase

Despite the intense objection from educators and student bodies, the UK government has announced a plan to increase university tuition fees above £9,000 (RM48,000) for the coming academic year. The written statement gives the green light to universities to hike the fees and comes from the Universities Minister Jo Johnson. A number of universities have actually increased their fees prior to the statement.

The tuition fee cap of £9,000 (RM 48,000) has been lifted as the UK forecasts inflation by 2017/18 which will force thousands of students applying for universities to face paying £9,250 (RM 49,300) per academic year. The costs are expected to reach as high as £10,000 (RM 53,000) within few years.

Jo Johnson, in his statement says students who have started their courses may not be exempted from this increase depending on which university they are studying in. However, this increase seems to effect universities with high teaching quality, a move justified by authorities as a measure designed to increase the benchmark for these institutions.

Universities that have not demonstrated distinguishable qualities will be limited to a fee cap of £6,000 (RM 32,000) for full time courses.

Several universities have already begun to advertise their courses at the new fee rates without obtaining permission to do so. Some of these institutions are Durham University, Kent University and Royal Holloway University. Authorities have criticised the action of these universities and some have called it “disgraceful arrogance”. However, there seems to be no action reported against these institutions.

Many have expressed concerns that increasing the fees will not only deter international students from coming to the UK, it will also increase student debt, which is already considered the highest in the English-speaking world.

Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust, has expressed worry regarding the decision by explaining that removing maintenance grants and the increase of fees will discourage poor students from pursuing their higher education as they will end up with a debt of more than £50,000 (RM266,580) upon graduation. Meanwhile, the authorities have not addressed the current crisis concerning mature and part-time students as this problem adds to their fees and debt and can only be perceived as a further deterrent from higher education. The numbers of mature and part-time students are consistently falling since the previous increase in tuition fees in 2012.

No work

No Work While Studying

May didn’t stop at restricting the entry of international students into the UK, ensuring they leave the upon graduation, increasing tuition fees and introducing key changes to the Department of Education, she also moved on to ensure that international students in the UK will not be able to work while studying. This rule will be enforced against non-EU students.

She hopes to stop migrants from using certain colleges for the purposes of entering the UK with a study visa and then seeking work opportunities. As many as 870 “bogus colleges” have been banned from accepting international students.

Authorities claim that there are many offenders who want to illegally grant access to the UK job market and there seems to be many buyers. This, according to officials, goes against the expectations and wishes of the UK taxpayer who fund many public institutions and expect world-class education and not a backdoor to work in the UK.

Many academics have criticised May’s actions against international students as this move will starve the UK from both talented individuals and economic benefits.

Some students have noted that the only reason why they would want to work while studying is to help support themselves and help reduce the burden from their families as living expenses are increasing in the UK. Other students questioned the motives behind these drastic measures and called upon the PM to reconsider. Others have expressed their feeling with regards to discrimination and racism against foreign students while others have called to keep foreign skills that will help the deteriorating economy in the UK.

Twitter users along with many students expressed anger and frustration at what they perceive to be attacks on international students in the UK.

What does this mean for Malaysia?

International Students in the UK

Even though Malaysia is part of the Commonwealth, Malaysian students stand to lose their opportunities to study, work, or even enter the UK under the new rules.

Many students who have studied in the UK have shared their experience on social media. One student spoke about the whopping fees which not only burdens the students and devastates their families, but they have a direct impact on their academic performance by causing the extension of their study duration. That delay in return does not offer the students any form of reward. In fact, it adds to the already high costs and force heavier burdens onto their shoulders.

Another student noted that not anyone can afford to study full time in the UK and relaying on part time work to support themselves, gain an experience and a good education is important. He also said that as long as he remains in the UK for an extended duration due to the expensive environment, he might as well get the most out of it. Terminating his education and returning to Malaysia seems to be out of the question as he mentioned that he came this far not to quit and go back to Malaysia and start all over again. Getting out of this predicament is proving to be a very costly feat.

Another student pointed-out that this entire crackdown is preposterous because the UK has the resources and intelligence to actually figure out which students are coming to the UK for migration reasons and who is coming for education purposes. She mentioned that since the numbers provided by the authorities in the UK indicate that only 20% of international students abuse their visa and use it as an excuse for migration, why should the rest be affected? She believes that this indicates there are intentions that stretch beyond just international students and immigration.

So is remaining in Malaysia a better option for students? Perhaps, it is time to consider the available UK choices within Malaysia.

Malaysians as international students enjoy the benefits of a strong passport that enables them to travel to other destinations around the world for various reasons including education. Many nations do not have this kind of benefit. Additionally, an overwhelming number of nations, including Malaysia, do not have the economic power to support their students in these difficult times.

Many talents wish and hope to explore and enhance their capabilities in various academic fields and they believe that an education from the UK can provide the opportunities they need. However, they still cannot afford to study in the UK.

But hope still exist with countries like Malaysia that provides an alternative for a cheaper environment with a UK education that can open the doors of a brighter future. These alternatives come in the form of branch campuses of renowned UK universities.

Source: The Independent.


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