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#WeAreInternational

#WeAreInternational welcomes parliamentary report calling for major change in government’s approach to international students

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The #WeAreInternational campaign has welcomed a cross-party parliamentary report calling for a major change in the government’s approach to international students.

A report by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on International Students, published today (6 November 2018), makes 12 recommendations to restore the UK’s competitiveness in the international higher education sector – including the introduction of a post-study work visa, which would allow international students a period of up to two years’ work experience in the UK.

The APPG also urges the government to set a clear and ambitious target to increase international student numbers, supported by a commitment to remove students from the target to reduce net migration.

The nationwide #WeAreInternational campaign, which was founded by the University of Sheffield with its Students’ Union, is now supported by 200 universities and business organisations and has long lobbied for a more welcoming environment and visa system for students travelling to the UK from across the world.

The APPG also recommended the government learns from campaigns such as #WeAreInternational and regional initiatives like #LondonIsOpen to ensure messages for international students regarding education in the UK are welcoming, clear, simple and consistent.

Professor Koen Lamberts, Chair of the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKISA), said: “I am proud to be the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield – the university that co-founded the #WeAreInternational campaign and which has spoken with conviction about the benefits of international scholarship to cities and communities across the UK.

“International students make a huge contribution, both academically and economically, and our diverse student population is crucial to the education, research and innovation for which we are known around the world. The measures in this report will enable the UK to recover its falling market share in the international student market, and I wholeheartedly urge the government to take note, in the national interest.”

The APPG report is the latest in a number of studies that have clearly shown the benefits that international students bring to the UK.

Paul Blomfield MP, Co-chair of the International Students APPG, said: “Increasingly restrictive policies and procedures over the last eight years have discouraged many international students from applying to the UK.

“We need to press the reset button, establish an ambitious strategy to increase recruitment, put new policies in place, and send out a clear message that international students are welcome in the UK.

“Our report offers a way forward for the Government, and a route-map to renewed competitiveness for our world-class universities and colleges. I urge Ministers to look carefully at our recommendations and step up to the challenge.”

International Students APPG Co-chair Lord Bilimoria added: “Like most of the population of the UK, I am proud that students from all around the world want to come and study in Britain. But our Government has treated this as a problem.

“This damages our relationships around the world and hurts our universities and local economies. It’s time for a fresh start.”

Following the publication of the report, the APPG will work to champion its recommendations within Parliament – including during the passage of the upcoming Immigration Bill.

Read the report

Recommendations for government

  • The APPG recommends that a cross-departmental group establishes a clear and ambitious target to grow international student numbers, supported by a cross-departmental strategy and a commitment to remove students from the target to reduce net migration.
  • The Government should offer a clearly labelled and attractive post-study work visa which allows up to two years of work experience in the UK.
  • The Government should pursue an EU deal for unrestricted movement of students and researchers, as part of a close relationship with European universities and provide urgent clarity for EU nationals studying and researching in the UK on what changes they will experience in visa and funding rights.
  • Immigration rules should facilitate and encourage students to study in the UK and at multiple study levels within the UK education system.
  • The Government should promote and protect the diversity of the UK education offer including small, specialist, vocational and further education providers within the proposed recruitment strategy.
  • The Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration should conduct an independent review of credibility interviews within the student immigration system to ensure the system is fit for purpose, cost-effective relative to current risk and does not limit the diversity of international students in the UK.
  • The UK Government should work closely with devolved and regional governments to support growth in international student numbers, protect local courses and institutions which are dependent on international students, and support regional and national initiatives which enhance the benefit of international education such as work experience schemes and industry engagement.
  • The Government should accurately track data on education as an export and as an economic value, including at a national, regional and local level. Government should include education in their trade strategy when approaching bi-lateral agreements.

Recommendations for universities, colleges and schools

  • Education institutions should share best practice across the education sector to enhance internationalisation strategies through maximising the advantages and benefits of having a diverse body of international students, as well as support more UK students to study abroad.

Recommendations for cooperation

  • Messages for international students regarding the UK should be welcoming, clear, simple and consistent. These should be developed in cooperation between the government and the education sector.
  • The UK should establish an international graduate and alumni strategy which would support international students for employment opportunities in their home country to boost UK soft power, research and trade and support greater engagement with alumni by universities, business and government. Activities to track the long-term employment destination of international graduates should be intensified.
  • Education institutions, local government and local business should come together to attract, plan for, support and integrate international students in the local community.

Survey reveals #WeAreInternational campaign continues to show the UK is welcoming to international students

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The #WeAreInternational campaign continues to show that the UK is welcoming to international students, according to the QS Enrolment Solutions International Student Survey 2018.

In the survey of more than 67,000 prospective international students – 28,020 of whom were considering studying in the UK – 82 per cent said campaigns such as #WeAreInternational had positively influenced their perceptions of the UK and persuaded them that the country is welcoming to international students.

After respondents were shown news coverage of #WeAreInternational and the #LondonIsOpen campaign, almost half (45 per cent) said they felt fully persuaded that the UK is a welcoming country to international students. An additional 37 per cent reportedly feeling slightly persuaded.

The #WeAreInternational campaign, which is supported by hundreds of universities, businesses and organisations globally, celebrate the rich contribution international students bring to the UK and is urging the government to support them in word and deed.

Professor Sir Keith Burnett, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, who co-founded the #WeAreInternational campaign with the President of Sheffield Students’ Union, said: “It is crucial to understand the importance that the shared message of #WeAreInternational has had to potential international students from around the world. The power of this campaign comes from its central truth, which is not restricted to any single university or even country – that education and knowledge at its best transcends borders and talent speaks to talent across the world.

“Yet for this to be the case, international students and scholars must know that they are welcome in their home-from-home. The #WeAreInternational campaign allows universities, students, businesses and partner organisations to say what must be heard – and amplified – around the world, with government policies backing these words with action.”

The annual international students survey also emphasised that welcoming campaigns like #WeAreInternational continue to be effective in combating negative perceptions of Brexit amongst international students.

Sixty-three per cent of international students surveyed said the UK’s decision to leave the EU had made no difference to their decision-making about where they want to study. Only 14 per cent said they were less interested in studying in the UK.

Patrick Whitfield, Director of UK & Europe at QS Enrolment Solutions, said: “Our findings suggest that welcoming campaigns like #WeAreInternational continue to be an effective strategy to combat against the negative perceptions around Brexit. We believe that UK universities and sector stakeholders must continue to support welcoming campaigns that champion the UK as a study destination for international students.

“Now is the time for the UK government to work together with universities and other stakeholders to do more to promote one of the UK’s greatest exports. By adopting the recommendations from the International Student Survey 2018, universities can achieve success and maintain the UK’s global leadership in higher education.”

For the full report, please visit: https://www.internationalstudentsurvey.com/

Welcoming foreign students to the UK builds trade and allies

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In H G Wells’ wartime bestseller Mr Britling Sees It Through, published in 1916, the author tells the story of the middle-class family of a scholar in Edwardian England ripped apart by the horrors of the first world war.

In the final chapter of the book, Mr Britling, whose beloved son Hugh has been lost in the trenches, writes to the parents of the young German man, also now lost, who had worked as his research assistant before the Great War.

His letter is a desperate plea for sanity and redemption, a letter of hope from suffering parent to suffering parent, written while England felt brutal despair.

Praised at the time for its humanity, the novel shatters the myth of a Jingoistic nation. The “war to end all wars” did not prevent other conflicts. Since the end of the second world war, there have been 250 conflicts in which more than 50m people have been killed in total.

But here is a source of hope. The navy of the British empire carried the flower of British and Asian youth to die at the front. Today, young people travel across the oceans not to fight but to study.

Once, only the very rich had the good fortune to taste the peacetime possibilities of living in other lands. Today, hundreds of thousands of families invest in a far better sacrifice: education. Their young will return stronger, with productive and competitive skills.

What would HG Wells think of our times? Perhaps he, like me, would imagine that lost generation of young men — not dead and buried in the mud of Flanders but living and learning in colleges across the world.

Never before in human history have so many travelled to learn and research across the world. Chinese students walk the streets of London, learning English and buying English goods. Young people travel between nations who once viewed each other as enemies. Students sit side by side from Greece and Cyprus, Serbia and Kosovo, Turkey and Albania. Students from throughout the world find a new identity as they mix with peers from other lands.

We know that globalisation will not guarantee world peace. Some believed the first world war was impossible because of the international connections made through trade; they believed that doux commerce would bind people together. Others warned that trade could lead to envy, from which resentment could grow.

Educational bonds can ensure we trade on good terms. In India, where half the population is under 25, there is huge demand for higher education, not met by the domestic universities. If the UK wants to trade with India, it must be ready to open its borders to India’s ambitious students. The freedom to trade and the movement of people are two sides of the same coin.

Students are not immigrants, they are temporary visitors who make considerable annual investments in the UK. But the decrease in applications from EU students this year confirms our worst fears: Brexit, and Theresa May’s refusal, both as prime minister and as home secretary, to exclude students from migration calculations, will have a substantial impact on the economy’s vital cities. Why cause additional financial damage in these places when we could do good?

And Chinese parents pay billions of pounds towards degree courses in the UK for their children — the largest proportion of international students in the UK. Their spending amounts to about 20 per cent of staff salaries and the investment in new teaching facilities and scholarships, not to mention the cash spent on food, taxi rides and rent. A large part of that cash was earned manufacturing the goods China has sold to the west.

Without these international students, inward investment would shrink. Shops in university towns and cities would fall to the Plimsoll line of viability. Assuming the UK government would not replace the loss in these fees from overseas, universities would face a devastating cut in funding. Our most talented global research teams would be cruelly diminished, leaving to base themselves elsewhere.

The UK benefits from others’ years of hard work, scrimping and saving so that a child can study in another land, expand their horizons, learn another language, make friends and find colleagues of every creed and colour.

That is why we want those students to study here and to take their affectionate memories back to their own countries, becoming the UK’s friends and allies.

Professor Sir Keith Burnett FRS is Vice-Chancellor of The University of Sheffield and co-founded the UK-wide #WeAreInternational campaign.