Over 2, 000 non-EU students studying at London Metropolitan University (LMU) have 60 days to find sponsorship from an alternative institution – or face deportation. The UK border agency claims that student attendance is not being monitored and that many students have no right to be in the UK. Why not monitor future visas more closely, rather than deporting students who are part way through degrees and have already spent thousands in tuition fees? ‘It's a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing,’ says one American graduate from Edinburgh university.
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In April, the post-study work visa programme, where international graduates from UK universities could remain in the UK for a year before returning home or applying for a work visa, was also closed. Changes to visa processes were hurried through parliament with little publicity and therefore little opportunity to challenge them. The frequent changes to student visa laws seriously mess students around, forcing them to spend hours dealing with bureaucracy rather than focussing on exams and essays. They also prevent any one law from being effective, with the overall effect piecemeal and confusing.
If the government wants to cut down on the number of foreign students in the UK, it should provide proper funding for universities. Many universities have turned to accepting increasing numbers of non-EU students to make up for a shortfall in funding; fees paid by non-EU students are considerably higher than those of national and EU students. The government must also stop pandering to tabloid fears of foreigners swamping the benefits system. ‘We've got a case of highly educated British students also going abroad to work and study, so people who aren't highly educated are those who remain and people who do want to stay are being told to leave,’ adds the anonymous American graduate. Most of these young people are highly skilled and well educated and bring in about 5 billion pounds a year* to the UK economy, whose population is already ageing. The irony is that those who choose to remain after graduating are intent on contributing to British society, often being more enthusiastic about British culture than the average Brit.