Barbed-wire welcome mat 1

April 29, 2010

Overseas students are worth far more to UK academia than tuition fees alone ("More than money is at stake", 22 April): rather than being mere "cash cows", they ensure that studying in Britain (regardless of whether you are a domestic or international student) is a culturally diverse and enriching experience.

Instead of reducing the number of unscrupulous individuals entering the country illegally under the guise of international studentship, the UK Border Agency's endless "tightening-up" of the visa system has seemingly had the sole effect of leaving the majority of applicants and agents very confused.

The UK Council for International Student Affairs' most recent report on international student sentiment reveals that the current visa system is causing untold problems for foreign students. Almost 50 per cent say that the application form is difficult to complete; 83 per cent consider the cost of student visas "unreasonable"; and 57 per cent question the speed and efficiency of the application process.

One only has to view the many online forums populated by international students to realise that current frustrations with the new visa forms can cost hundreds of pounds and a considerable amount of wasted time. The system is leading to an increasingly widespread perception that the UK no longer welcomes international students.

In addition to consumer and human rights, we would add a third entitlement: academic rights. Our universities have benefited from the influx of world-class minds for centuries; with the increasing globalisation of education, we would be foolish to drive them away now.

James Pitman, Managing director, Study Group - Higher Education UK and Europe

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