Letter from London: A Cautionary Tale

The lead editorial in Saturday’s Times of London, titled “The Best and the Brightest” is about the UK’s own immigration debate. A few pages earlier, the paper covered the drama unfolding in the United States as Congress moves to pass an immigration reform bill before the July 4th recess. The London paper argues that “In its drive to bring down immigration, the Government is sending the wrong signals to talented overseas students whom the country needs.”

Noting that “education is Britain’s second biggest export,” the editors catalogue a series of legal and bureaucratic measures that have made it harder for foreign students to come to the UK, for those with needed skills to stay on for work, and for business visas holders to renew them. As a result, the number of foreign students in the UK fell last year by over 56,000. The British Council and many university leaders are rightfully worried that this is a trend that will continue. And they note that more international students are educated now at offshore British university campuses than in the UK itself.

The Times editors also worry that as the agency in charge of immigration and border security gets reorganized and more deeply focused on enforcement, there will be further intended and unintended adverse consequences for international education.

In many countries, changes in immigration rules and procedures need reform and these are driven by situations and events far beyond the education sector. So the public very often does not seek or have a voice in these matters. The UK case reminds us that maybe we should.

Read “The Best and the Brightest” in Saturday’s Times of London