The All Party Parliamentary Group for International Students held an event during ‘UKCISA Fest’ to celebrate international students day and discussed the experiences of international students from Nigeria, Germany, the USA amongst many others.
Paul Blomfied MP discussed how campaigning for the rights of international students has changed in recent years, and the risks and opportunities that are forthcoming – not least the new graduate route. The truly international nature of the UK’s higher education sector and the vital and vibrant role that international students play was emphasised by Paul.
Our Student Chair introduced the session and his journey from Germany to Sheffield (Paul’s constituency!) and his work as a UKCISA Ambassador for the EU – he knew Paul’s Shadow Ministerial brief on Brexit very well. His key point was around how information on visas and pre-settled status reaches EU students and how informed students are with regards to the end of the withdrawal arrangements, not least in relation to fee levels. He posed the question: will the UK offer remain competitive?
Our second student speaker from Manchester shared her story which was a little different to the usual route, in that she transferred from a university course abroad. Transferring was quite difficult and options were limited. Do we need more flexibility in this area of policy?
A key thread throughout the discussion was the gap between domestic and international fees, and the scholarships available on a country specific basis, particularly non-core markets for the UK.
Regarding the experience of a Nigerian student, she emphasised the continued importance of English common law. She found the voluntary opportunities open to here during her study as invaluable and a deeply rewarding experience. She believes that international students are adaptable and highly proactive and allowing them diverse and challenging opportunities to volunteer and work should be a key area of focus for the UK.
Our next student speaker who is studying in Wales reminded the attendees of the regional impact of international students – supporting universities in all parts of the UK and across the nations. The speaker believed that the sector should focus on how international students can act on a consultancy and commercial basis to local firms – adding to their education, and contributing to the local economy. International student employability must be front and centre of any policy reforms going forward and our final speaker put forward a softer touch approach on voluntary activities and work – reminding attendees that international students often study abroad because they want to become ‘global citizens’ and to carve out an international career.
Speakers spoke warmly of their experience in the UK and showed an appreciation for the political issues relating to leaving the EU. However, they encourage the Government and sector bodies to continue to promote the UK as a destination and to value the role of international students – to the economy, society and culture across the UK.
The Group’s parliamentary officers reiterated this point and discussed that how we think about, catalogue, and value the contribution of international students should be a priority for its activities going forward. Ben Lake MP spoke about his experience growing up in Wales where the universities contributed hugely to the diversity of the community and economy – his personal contribution resonated with our student contributors. Stephen Timms MP spoke about the crucial importance of universities in showing flexibility on fees and other support available for international students who may have lost a source of income due to the pandemic and restrictions placed on individuals.
Lord Bilimoria wrapped up the event by saying that higher education and international students in the UK are not only about being ‘the best in the world’ but the ‘best for the world’ also – opportunities for international students to ‘give back’ must be prioritised in the future.
More information about International Students Day can be found here.
Details of the ‘UKCISA Fest’ can be found here.
- Posted by Exporting Education UK
- On 17/11/2020