Almost two and a half years ago, when I had a choice to either stay back in India to finish my degree or choose to do another two full years in the UK, I happily chose the latter for more reasons than one. It was not just the prospect of having a ‘foreign degree’ (that has become such a celebrated thing) but it was the experience and more the opportunities to see new places and encounter many more interesting people. But there was also one more very important opportunity that convinced me to sign up for this twinning programme – Work after study. This sounded like such a plan that no one could talk me out of. I was able to convince my father to spend most of his life’s savings in sending me abroad for two whole years.
Its been two years now and just a few months ago, the coalition of Clegg and Cameron’s, announced the ban on the Post Study Work (PSW) visas effective of 5th April, 2012. (A PSW is a visa, usually referred to as the TIER 1 visa, that was given to any non- EU student who successfully finished his/her degree from any University in the UK). So this means, all the students who achieved their degrees successfully before the date could apply for PSWs. I’m in my final year and I am short by a few months of hopefully achieving my degree here at Swansea University. But with no prospect of applying for a PSW, finding work after an Under-graduate degree is going to be harder than I thought. The new rules according to the UK Border Agency allow only ‘highly skilled immigrants’ to stay back and only 20,700 of them. Moreover every student who comes under this category requires to earn a minimum of £20,000 AND be sponsored by a ‘recognized’ employer. The other obvious route is to pursue a Post Graduate degree but this is going to set me back by another £25000 for a single year and I simply do not have enough money for it.
So what’s my issue?
International students bring almost £9 billion to the UK into the UK Economy according to the BBC and shutting them off from a PSW will surely stop interesting half the students who plan to come here to study. At this juncture, Universities in Canada and Australia and New Zealand have opened up and loosened many regulations to let more International Students come in, not only for the extravagant fees we pay but also for offering them almost equal opportunities to successfully apply for work after graduation. So, as long as you are better than the local students, you stand an above average chance of beating them to it. This means that if the rules are going to be tightened, students will simply look elsewhere in search of better opportunities. As an Indian, I believe we form one of the highest number of International Student counts in the UK and I can see that reducing very soon, if the rules stay. It is not only unfair that the government does not let companies hire overseas students who have better scores and better aptitudes and capabilities but also end up hiring local students who probably have lower grades and so on. This way, it benefits neither the company nor the better student. In times when there are quite obviously fewer jobs than in the last 30 years, companies are surely looking to hire only the best and to shun internationals from even applying for work, is more drastic than anything.
[Prajwal Parajuly, an Oxford student and author of The Gurkha’s Daughter, said: “I highly doubt if universities like Oxford and Cambridge who attract the kind of students who would be discouraged to apply simply because of changes in the visa rules.
“So, if the UK wants to be silly and turn away the world’s best qualified people it’s the UK’s loss and the home country’s gain.”] – BBC
What is most evident is that by implementing such a policy, putting things in a long-term perspective, UK based companies would have no choice but to employ only the best local students, who bring in practically no cultural diversity or background which can form such a strong point on many occasions. So if the companies can’t get the best to work for them, this might even deter the interests of investment, local or foreign.
My point is neither that overseas students are better nor that we take education more seriously than drinking. I firmly believe that if a country invites students to study, it should also provide them with equal opportunities to work and pay off massive loans back in the home country. If the UK fails to recognize this soon enough, it might lose way more than it can gain.
(The UK Border Agency has not given out a lot of information about this nor have the media written much about it. I write this with the confidence that firstly, this message can be passed onto thousands of international students who still have no idea about the new visa changes and secondly, to educate all the citizens of the UK about the same)
If you are still considering a degree in the UK, please think again and make a wise decision.