International Students and Immigration: Tackling myths and misconceptions
Debates on the future of international students in the UK are becoming increasingly prominent and interwoven with discussions around immigration. This has especially been the case concerning the UK Government’s objective to reduce immigration numbers and become all the more noticeable since July 2023, when the UK Government gained Royal Assent for the Illegal Migration Act to be written into law.
In this thinkpiece, the Lifelong Education Institute explores the subject of international students and evaluates how current and new legislation is unfairly targeting them and in particular their families or dependants. It concludes with key reflections on how international students, and international academics, are far from being a problem. Instead, they are valuable economic and research contributors to British higher education institutions and society as a whole.
30 November 2023
Key recommendations include:
1. Recognise the vital contributions made by international students, and international academics, to the development of new partnerships and the continuation of innovative knowledge production across a wide range of fields.
2. Ensure the means to secure the UK’s legacy as a global hub for the production of high-quality research through international collaborations based in the UK.
3. Introduce a clearer and easier visa process for incoming international students in order to bolster the international profile of UK institutions.
4. Acknowledge the need for clearer transparency and communication between incoming students and employers in order to secure sponsorships.
5. Highlight the importance of international students to the UK’s domestic economy.
6. Secure the ability for students and academics to bring spouses or partners who work in high-skilled sectors.
7. Develop further inquiries into whether international students or academics are more likely to have spouses or family members who work in high-skilled sector themselves.
8. Give clear emphasis to the publicity around visa denial stories and how they adversely affect the family unit, especially when an academic is already in the UK but dependants are unable to follow.
9. Dispel the misconception that dependants are unable to support themselves while in the UK and are a burden on the welfare state.
10. Reclassify international students in the Tiered Visa system so as to better recognise the level of expertise and skills that they bring into the UK.