Narrow Gate


Himalayan News Service

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Finding the golden mean is no easy task. The changes to the student visa rules that the home secretary of the United Kingdom has outlined seem to be seeking that path — trying to help the best students study in the best British institutions while weeding out those who are more interested in immigration than study and others who are being cheated by either fake visa operators or second-rate institutions. The changes are, therefore, multidirectional, and the British government is practical enough to give itself and its border agency a year’s time to implement all the measures. The country is faced with a peculiar dilemma. Its economy, particularly that of its higher education institutions, its production profile, and reputation as a fosterer of excellence are in part dependent on its overseas students. Among these, Indian and Chinese students form a large percentage. But the country’s workspace is becoming crowded. Overseas students pursuing higher degrees often take up unskilled jobs. Students left adrift by bogus agencies that have cheated them of their tuition fees have to do the same. And then there are those who use the student visa as a route into the job market with immigration in mind.

The abuses have obviously overtaken the benefits. The new rules will limit a student’s period of stay according to his level of study, determine which jobs he can or cannot do — for those should be of benefit to the student as well as to the host country — and when he can bring in dependants. But it is the gateway into the country that shall become really narrow. For example, all sponsoring institutions would have to achieve the ‘highly trusted’ category, aspiring entrants would have to acquire a higher level of English than is allowed now, financial statements accompanying visas will have to come only from banks trusted by the border agency. This, the UK is hoping, will be enough to weed out unscrupulous agencies and scheming individuals. But the strictness is yet to become popular in the country. Authorities from the more expensive sectors in education, such as management studies, are worried that the squeeze on students’ time and work opportunity will harm Britain rather than help it. It is unfortunate that human beings find so many ways to abuse opportunities when they are generously given. Correction may not be pleasant but it is necessary.

(Source: The Telegraph India)