2016 has been a strange year, especially for the younger generation – or Millenials, if you like.
First, the world slowly realised that Donald Trump truly could become the next President of the United States. Then, Brexit went from being a joke to a harsh reality chosen by our grandparents. Now, with the hysteria over, it’s time to take a serious look at what is happening to our country and how it may change the things that make Britain Great. And for many students, young professionals, and employers, a key downside from recent political madness is the reduction in international students coming to the UK.
Who needs international students anyway?
One of the most charming traits of the UK and, specifically, London is its diversity. Our wonderful city even made it into The Culture Trip’s list of the 10 most diverse cities in the world, with it’s non-English inhabitants being praised for ‘still [having] a love for their culture and [sharing] it in many ways’. For many, the passage to the UK is through our universities. According to TransferGo, the UK welcomes almost half a million students from all over the world! Other than adding to the multicultural feel of the UK, there are huge benefits to welcoming international students.
- Money, money, money. According to the FT, international students make a net contribution of over £2.3bn in London alone. As well as paying hugely inflated tuition fees compared to home students, international students add to the economy through living costs and income from visiting friends and family.
- University research. The aforementioned tuition fees go a long way to supporting universities across the UK in continuing research that can lead to groundbreaking discoveries.
- Innovation. Diversity breeds creativity. Some of the most disruptive businesses have stemmed from ideas that started with a group of friends at university…Microsoft, anyone?
- Students grow up. When these international students graduate, they can be an asset to UK businesses. Having access to young professionals who are familiar with other languages and other cultures is a real benefit for UK companies looking to make a global impact.
So, where are they all going?
With post Brexit Britain making many EU nationals – and non-EU immigrants for that matter – feel unwelcome in our country, the cons of coming to study in Britain are becoming more and more pertinent. The UKs low graduate earning potential has recently been in the spotlight – and this is even more of an issue for female graduates who must consider how little the gender pay gap has shifted in recent years. In addition to this, the UK is one of the most expensive countries for students – and the research shows that, surprisingly, this is not a skew caused by London. In fact, Edinburgh is the most expensive city in the UK for students with Southampton, Oxford, Cambridge, Plymouth and Sheffield all coming in ahead of the capital.
With all these factors to consider, the news that Prime Minister Theresa May now wants to further crack down on the number of international students joining our universities because they have become “an easy route into Britain for economic migrants” is hardly comforting for prospective students.
What can we do about this?
With the number of international students set to fall, we as a country must ensure that we welcome and nurture those that do make the move. Universities will suffer a loss in STEM students and in funding for research projects. In particular, it is likely that there will be fewer women in STEM. The US has seen a huge influx of female STEM students and this has been down to their international community. Without this, UK universities and organisations must continue their good work in supporting the development of women in STEM as a critical action.
With fewer international students, it may be down to businesses to recruit the diverse talent needed to keep the UK economy booming. Even short term internships and experience can make the difference and encourage top talent to find their own way to the UK.
As individuals, we have a voice. Through our network of friends, our social media and even through the organisations we choose to support/work with, we can show the international community that Britain is NOT closed for business.
Article provided Babs Ofori-Acquah, Founder of Working Girl London