Bad mouths strike again

February 7, 2013

Please, please, please: no more articles or opinion pieces on how the UK’s immigration policies are harming international student recruitment (“Stubbornly indifferent”, Opinion, 31 January). The noise we are making is doing more harm overseas than the actual policies.

How do you imagine our squabbling plays in Abuja or Delhi? And what message does it send when we are saying that our government does not want international students here? The sector’s lobbying on this issue has hardly been subtle (or effective, for that matter).

In any case, a bit of honesty wouldn’t go amiss. Not all the UK Border Agency’s policy changes have been bad: we now have better conversion rates from application to acceptance to registration, plus fewer debt problems and dropouts.

Complaints about monitoring are partly about definition. Here at the University of Nottingham we introduced better monitoring of student engagement for all, not just those from overseas, and we have seen the benefits. We have had to rethink some outdated policies, but again for all: we shouldn’t in future have failing students repeating again and again, or PhD candidates with no sign of ever making it to the end being allowed to stay on for just one more year. And overseas sponsors like the fact that they are getting better returns on their investment: students are now much more likely to return home, as intended by the sponsorship, rather than stay in the UK.

Of course it is not all rosy: the regulations have added significantly to our cost base, increasing both our recruitment and support costs. Our international student advisers now spend more than 80 per cent of their time on visa support and compliance rather than their original job of supporting and adding value to the overseas student experience.

But it is time for us to move on. Let us take the positives from the changes that we have been required to make and start promoting the many benefits of UK education and the care and support provided by our universities to international students. Our high-profile complaints and lobbying are hurting us: from now on, let us desist from washing our dirty laundry in the global marketplace.

Vincenzo Raimo
Director, International Office
University of Nottingham

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