Cambridge v-c: immigration attitudes and policy harming UK

The vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge has criticised the “ever more parochial” attitude to immigration in the UK.

October 31, 2014
Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, vice-chancellor University of Cambridge
Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, who will come to the end of his term in 2017

Speaking at a Cambridge event, Sir Leszek Borysiewicz warned that this attitude was “positively detrimental” to higher education.

In remarks that appeared to respond to claims by the defence secretary, Michael Fallon, that some towns were being “swamped” by immigrants and that their residents felt “under siege”, he warned that government policies aimed at restricting immigration were likely to “damage British national interests”.

Speaking before writer Bonnie Greer, the chancellor of Kingston University, gave Cambridge’s annual race equality lecture, Sir Leszek said Britain had a long history of welcoming immigrants, particularly refugees. This continued with the arrival of newcomers from the Commonwealth after the Second World War to assist with rebuilding society, he added.

Since then, however, attitudes to immigration have “swung like a pendulum”, said Sir Leszek, who is the son of wartime Polish refugees.

“Attitudes have changed with perceptions of threat and danger, interspersed with the almost warlike language of ‘invasion’ and ‘being swamped’,” Sir Leszek was due to say, according to a written version of his remarks.

“As the v-c of a global university, I am encountering attitudes and policy decisions which seem ever more parochial and positively detrimental to the work of the higher education sector. More importantly, they are likely to damage British national interests and our global standing.”

Sir Leszek’s intervention follows a comment by Andrew Hamilton, vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford, that he was “baffled” by the UK’s “hostile” student visa system.

The number of students coming to the UK from India has declined particularly steeply, but the government has consistently rejected calls to remove students from the net migration target and has refused to restore the post-study work visa route which was closed in 2012.

Sir Leszek added: “The university’s diversity plays a key role in sustaining its academic excellence, whether this is race, gender, disability, sexual orientation or any other protected group.

“The university is committed to being a global centre of academic excellence. This means that we need to attract the best minds from wherever they are found from across the world.”

Ms Greer’s lecture was titled “Don’t Throw the Baby out with the Bathwater: Remembering the Benefits of Multi-Cultural Britain”.

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Reader's comments (4)

To this VC: As a VC of a UK university, your responsibility is to the UK citizens. It is oftennoticed that universities like yours recruit non-EU studen ts not on the basis of excellence, but on the basis of how much they bring money to your coffers.
To add further to what I have posted, instead of seeking researchers from outside Europe, try giving a chance to our own researchers-there are plenty of PhDs who are British citizens who would be glad to have a chance, Again, to emphasise, all those you recruit from non-EU countries are not always excellent and we can find better people here.
Germany does not have a global university like Cambridge, but still they are the richest country in Europe. I wonder having global universities is of any benefit except as conduit for more immigration.
SIMON PAGE// How else would publicly funded university sustain its excellence? The endowment situation in UK higher education is substantially lower than their US counterparts. Besides, the rise in tuition fee in fact makes non-EU students less financially 'desirable' - the difference in the tuition fee has gone from something like 1:15 to 1:3. Funny you mention Germany which has just decided to offer all its degrees for free. Surely this must be the approach we should go for should we wish to catch up with them?

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