Students Take Action Over UK Immigration Changes (PICTURES)

Students Fight 'Rubbish' Immigration Changes

A students' union has launched a campaign on behalf of international students in protest against the government's immigration policies, which the body claims are "absolute rubbish".

The National Union of Students' (NUS) campaign, which launched on 6 March, has already had more than 1,200 likes on its Facebook page and the founder of "International Students Against UK Immigration Changes" says student feedback has been "great".

"Students want to take action locally," Daniel Stevens, a national executive council member for the NUS told the Huffington Post UK.

"One of the biggest problems in the UK is many student sabbatical officers do not know enough about the issue. We have been trying to persuade them to take up the cause but if they don't understand then they can't really help."

The NUS officer said the main hope for the campaigners was to reach as many student unions as possible although it is "not so much about numbers but about a story needing to be told".

"So many people have spoken out against the policies such as the British Council and the Russell Group but the government hasn't listened."

A key part in the coalition's scheme to reduce net migration is restricting the number of student visas. Applicants must also be able to speak English before they move and foreign students are not allowed to remain in the UK without the offer of a "skilled job".

The government has defended its policy on numerous occasions, with a Home Office spokesperson saying in March: "We are taking action to control migration and restore public confidence which will not be achieved by simply changing the statistics.

"Our reforms have re-focused the student visa system as a temporary route and one that is not open to abuse. Our aim is not to stop genuine students coming here to study — it is to ensure we are attracting the brightest and best.”

But Stevens argues the government has the "completely wrong attitude towards international students".

"The new rules were introduced to crack down on bogus colleges but so many others have suffered as a result."

Stevens insists the visa applications charges are "completely unfair" and it is only those who can pay can study in the UK.

"You need a large amount in your back account to be able to study there," the 23-year-old adds. "But it shouldn't be a system based on money. Some institutions do treat international students as cash cows."

But it is not only the immigration figures which come under fire; the government's decision on 6 April to slash the post-study visa draws harsh criticism from the student campaigner.

Work experience in the UK is valued highly when the students return home, Stevens explains. "Few international students want to move here permanently.

"Countries such as Australia, Canada and the US are creating packages to allow students to work for a while after they study. International students will simply go to these places instead of the UK.

"I know of a lot of students who have said they've told their friends not to come here."

According to Stevens, there has been a "huge" drop in international applications to private colleges.

"Next year the UK will get hammered completely," he predicts.

Additionally, the standards foreigners are required to reach before they are allowed to study in the UK have risen. There are now more English language tests than before, which "many native English speakers could not even pass", Stevens claims.

Financially, international students have very little negative impact on the economy. They do not have access to public funds and the only service they are entitled to is the NHS.

According to the Joint Council for Welfare of Immigrants, foreign students make the UK economy between £5.3bn and £8bn annually through tuition fees alone. This is not including accommodation, food costs, tourism profits, to name a few.

"And that's just the economic side," Stevens continues. "The benefits are huge; these students bring diversity, culture and so much more to campuses.

"The only reason the government refuse to back down to our pressure is because, when the next general election comes around, they can say: 'We brought immigration numbers down'."

Stevens acknowledges the public want to see immigration figures declining, and cites think tank Demos' research published in 2010 which claimed Labour's "too soft" immigration policy cost the party the election.

But he adds most do not want to see students included in the calculation, something he says the current government will not accept.

"That is how disgusting this policy is. All they want is a soundbite."


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