UK universities have been warned to expect a significant decrease in the number of international students applying to study in the country due, in part, to the recent historic election of Barrack Obama.
Until fairly recently UK universities have benefited from an influx of international students deterred from studying in the US by the strict visa requirements in place since 9/11. However, as the UK government seeks to respond to the economic downturn and cap its allowance on migrant workers, the US government is now relaxing such controls and North American universities have begun to attract a greater intake of international students onto their campuses. With Obama’s presidency now looming it is thought that this might prove to be another draw.
Speaking the day after Obama’s win, Dominic Scott of the UK council for international students, told the Guardian ‘The UK has increased its recruitment quite successfully over the last four or five years, because of increased security measures that made the US less attractive and far less welcoming. UK institutions put more investment into the quality of the international student experience and visa charges were kept relatively low and entry procedures simple. The Obama success puts us into a whole new chapter and 4/11 could well be as powerful and influential as 9/11.”
The global response to Obama’s election victory demonstrates his ability to galvanize a rare kind of political optimism- one that inspires beyond the imagination of American voters. Even Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad managed to muster some congratulation for the incoming US president, a first since the 1979 Iranian revolution. It is this newly generated sense of optimism about the US, and about what an Obama presidency might hold, that is now expected to attract more international students onto North American campuses.
Such forecasts will not be comforting to those universities struggling to weather the economic storm. The annual intake of international students brings an estimated £3.5bn to UK universities and £10bn to the British economy in all. This revenue was seen significant enough for the university watchdog, the Quality Assurance Agency, to warn earlier this year that some universities were now financially dependent upon a sufficient intake of international students.
As reported in The Badger last week, the controversial National Identity Scheme will be piloted among international students from 25th November this year, raising fears that these additional measures will only serve to intimidate those considering studying in the UK. After this date international students will be subject to an initial finger-printing process before being legally required to be in possession of a UK Identity Card. What affect these measures will have upon international students remains to be seen. However, it is feared that such legislation might be seen as unwelcoming and have an adverse affect on the number of international students applying to study here. Highlighting that these measures are significant to those considering the application process, Scott said that “The government will also have to ensure that the new points-based system – together with biometrics and identity cards – is introduced as efficiently as possible and that visa charges continue to be held at current rates.”