Should universities remain international?

Porapak Apichodilok

Rachel Hains discusses the new regulations surrounding Tier 4 students at UCL and the impact they could have on universities across the country.

Immigration: a word that nowadays never fails to provoke controversy. Looking at the U.S in particular, immigration seems to be the ‘hot topic’, with a never-ending barrage of stories about the dangers of allowing foreigners inside the country being hurled at the public. Is it any surprise, then, that this latest rhetoric has finally spread across the pond?

Back in July, the public learned that UCL lecturers could be “liable to a £20,000 personal fine per case” if they fail to report Tier Level 4 students. According to The Guardian, Lecturers have also been advised to verify foreign students’ IDs, as Tier 4 students’ attendance must be regulated using “spot-checks based on face-to-face verification”. The regulations also demand that academic supervisors have to meet postgraduates personally once per month, even during the summer holidays.

With ever-increasing competition for places at universities, measures designed to regulate the number of students accepted from places outside of Europe could be a good thing. Perhaps more universities should re-examine their policies surrounding Tier Level 4 students. Donald Trump even argued recently that he feels the UK is losing its culture due to immigration, claiming oh-so-eloquently, “[I] think allowing millions and millions of people to come into Europe is very, very sad” and that we “are losing [our] culture.”

However, it can not be ignored that universities are supposed to be places of learning. They exist to encourage people, to create citizens of the world, as well as giving people degrees crucial to their chosen professions. What is to stop this kind of policing from spreading to international students in general? With the number of English students applying for some degrees, such as nursing courses, falling by 23% (according to UCAS) we need international students – wherever they come from.

Unsurprisingly, UCL lecturers strongly disagree with the guidance they have received from the university administration. Who can blame them? They are teachers, not Immigration officers. Threats like these are pressuring them into forming their very own Inquisition and can also only have a negative impact.

A recent survey published by the UCL Student’s Union found that 83% of the 400 international students surveyed felt that the university’s regulations were discriminatory. The Union said numerous students – as well as staff – feel threatened. Many have even described the fear and pressure these regulations have put them under physically and emotionally, making it harder for them to remain focused on their studies.

Here at Royal Holloway, we pride ourselves on our wide range of international students. The range of cultures and nationalities enriches our university as a whole. We are a wonderful example of why I believe welcoming students from other countries can only be beneficial. True, there need to be regulations to ensure a fair distribution of spaces but not ones as harsh, and as threatening, as those at UCL.