According to The Times, newly appointed Prime Minister Theresa May is seeking ways to reduce the number of international students coming into the UK. She wants universities to "develop sustainable funding models that are not so dependent on international students".
As an international student myself, I was disappointed to hear this news. But I can't say that I was surprised. As Home Secretary Theresa May had proposed a minimum salary of 35,000 pounds for international students before being able to qualify for a Tier 2 Work Visa. And in the wake of the Brexit vote and discussion about reducing immigration, international students are an easy target. You think any of us will go up in arms about it? Most of us can't even be bothered to follow the Bake Off.
But what pains me about the Prime Minister's recent comments isn't just that she's targeting a group I closely identify with. It's that she's doing it despite how little sense her proposal makes. I understand that curbing migration is important to the new Cabinet - but why target international students? We're not here to cause trouble, use benefits, or take over the country. The fact that university fees for international students are many orders higher than local fees means that we're here to get our money's worth: to work hard, get a good degree, and hopefully a good job. An international student studying in a UK medical school may pay up to 240,000 pounds for the entire five to six year course. You could buy a Ferrari with that kind of money. Do you really think we're here to fool around and leech off the system?
The international student business is worth about seven billion pounds, according the britishfuture.org. Universities certainly won't be happy losing out on that. But they also lose risking much more. Universities are a place where people from all walks of life can come together, learn from each other, and create new ideas. When Theresa May talks about 'models that are not so dependent on international students', she seems to ignore the fact that universities are very dependent on the success of all its students, local or not. The Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge said in a statement after the Brexit vote: "Cambridge thrives as part of a wider community of academic staff and students," and added, "we remain deeply committed to global cooperation and our dedicated staff who come from all around the world."
The fact is, some of the best academic institutions in the world reside in the UK. Naturally this will attract some of the best minds to study, work, and maybe live here. They make new friends, learn the ins and outs of British culture, and maybe try and watch the Bake Off once a week. They'll also develop new ideas, ventures, and technologies to address issues facing the country and ultimately, the larger global community. The UK should not shy away from their place as one of the world's intellectual capitals. Rather they should be welcoming to anyone with the brains, tenacity and dedication to graduate with a British degree.
Immigration is indeed a problem that the UK must find a way to address. But Theresa May is targeting the wrong demographic to make matters any better. We're all really nice people, honest. Sometimes we just talk with a funny accent, that's all.