Forced labour 2

May 14, 2009

Students in Britain put in fewer hours partly because many now have to work part time to stay at university ("Brits study less than continental cousins", 30 April). I have to work 16 hours to undertake a PhD.

Diana Warwick of Universities UK is talking rubbish about "emphasising learner autonomy" - that's an excuse not to teach and provide contact hours. Many international students find that they receive little support in UK institutions, which use foreign students as cash cows, paying higher fees for a service that is no better than the one for home students.

There is also a lack of understanding of different cultures in terms of English-language skills. Many academics of South East Asian origin are from Hong Kong or affluent families and have an unrepresentative grasp of English spoken and written skills. They thus assume that all international students are as proficient as English students. This is not the reality.

The Chinese are attracted to the UK by its reputation, but once they realise they can get better treatment elsewhere, they will head back to their home institutions, where they get taught rather than fobbed off. At the moment, the exchange rates are masking what could potentially happen in terms of international student recruitment.

Craig Wheway, PhD candidate in human geography, University of Leicester.

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