Speak out against damaging visa policy

February 16, 2012

Are we ordinary academics in danger of replicating Universities UK's pusillanimous stance towards the government's ill-considered directives on higher education by rolling over without a fight against disastrous visa restrictions on international students?

Unless we in the universities stand together to rally against the changes by promoting the evidence we have to hand, we shall have colluded in the overt destruction of our enviable international reputation and provision of first-class higher education for international as well as UK students.

Extremism is a much-hyped issue, but it is not related to international students, as is clear from the Home Affairs Committee report Roots of Violent Radicalisation. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills report Estimating the Value to the UK of Education Exports and the British Council evidence on visa restrictions and changes point to a dramatic and deleterious effect on the economy if we restrict international students.

We must not, either, forget the importance that a global mix of students brings to the pursuit, creation and sharing of knowledge.

Unless this visa policy is reversed, we believe the UK is in grave danger not only of losing its prime world position for higher education but of losing it for ever.

We call on all concerned colleagues to move beyond internal university politics, and even party politics, and challenge these obtuse and deeply damaging government policies. We must promote instead a coherent, evidence-based approach befitting our status as academics before it is too late to retrieve this potentially disastrous situation.

Jonathan Parker, Director, Centre for Social Work and Social Policy

Sara Ashencaen Crabtree, Deputy director, Centre for Social Work and Social Policy, Bournemouth University

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