UK higher education’s reputation under threat
22 October 2012
The recent troubles facing students enrolled at the London Metropolitan University following a decision by the UK Border Agency to revoke the university’s licence may have more far-reaching effects than originally anticipated for universities countrywide. A report published in The Independent shows that the number of applications from international students has dropped.
International students generally pay a premium price for their education, with overseas fees being almost three times that of the fees payable by home students. The draw for many international students is the recognition that comes from having attended a UK university. Many naturally believe that it would be worth the cost in order to study in the UK. The hurdle to studying in the UK (if the matter of cost can be overcome) is obtaining a visa. The change to the Points-Based System caught many students off guard, requiring that they show a set amount of money in their accounts for a period of time. Many were unaware of the changes, resulting in appeals or their simply having to abandon their studies and leave the UK.
Now, more hurdles have been put in the path of the overseas student, including an interview, limits on allowable work and more stringent tests on their English. Even if these hurdles could be overcome, an average student would be faced with the possibility, through no fault of their own, of having their visas and studies compromised should their sponsor’s licence be revoked. London Metropolitan University is the first university to have its licence revoked and this has sent shockwaves through the international student community, with students sitting on tenterhooks, awaiting the conclusion of their studies.
The negative publicity attached to obtaining a UK student visa has the potential to put many off opting for a UK university. Given the enormous investment of both finance and time, it is hardly surprising that many would opt for a more secure way to achieve their goals and qualifications. Should the number of students applying to universities continue to drop, this will surely have an adverse impact on universities, whose budgets for improvement and research will likely be reduced. This may not bode well for the reputation of UK universities and for the taxpayer and/or the next wave of prospective university students, who may then have to absorb the costs associated with the loss of the overseas student…