Wealth and safety

January 26, 2012

Keith Vaz is right: the government needs to do everything in its power to reassure international students that we value their presence at our universities - and take their safety when in the UK seriously ("Visitors deserve the best", 12 January). The murder of Anuj Bidve on Boxing Day was a tragic event - but it would also be tragic if those events in Salford damaged the longstanding academic relationships that UK universities have maintained with countries the world over for hundreds of years.

While politicians decide how to reassure Indian students that the UK is (and will continue to be) a safe, high-quality higher education destination, those in the UK Border Agency and the Home Office should remember that the ability to attract students - "education tourists" - from across the globe to our universities is an economic and cultural asset, not a matter of net migration targets.

International students who arrive here in pursuit of undergraduate or postgraduate qualifications could just as easily look elsewhere to countries such as France, the US or Australia, all of which are actively promoting their education systems.

If they choose to study elsewhere, not only would we lose out on billions of pounds of revenue that helps support our universities and economy, we would also miss out on the benefits of educating future generations of young adults from the Bric economies (Brazil, Russia, India and China), vital to the UK's future as a global power.

The Salford tragedy cannot be allowed to deter future international students from studying here or damage our relationship with the Indian government. David Cameron will be well aware of how Australia struggled with a similar situation in 2009: in light of that, he needs to ensure that a consistent message of welcome and solidarity is transmitted by all his ministers.

James Pitman, Managing director, HE - UK and Europe Study Group

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