DS: Yes, it is a one year sabbatical post as part of the NUS and it involves representing the 450,000 international students studying here, both EU and Non-EU. That figure is most probably higher once you count FE and private colleges; technically they are not in our membership but we represent them anyway. And also international students studying abroad in TNE (transnational education). So that’s another area that we’re investigating, so it’s about, I think now it’s 500,000 international students studying at a UK institution overseas.
The PIE: 500.000? So it’s the same number again basically?
The PIE: Wow. Ok and what do you consider to be the main issues of note for international students?
DS: Oh I think it’s no surprise that immigration is the number one issue. I think the attitude towards international students is one that they feel criminalised and that they feel in many ways, some of them – betrayed, because of the closure of PSW [Post-Study Work rights] mid-cycle, basically for those studying degrees or two-year Masters courses. So immigration is a number one priority and we know that universities are on board as well on this; it’s more about being able to being able to change the policy direction of government.
The PIE: Do you think that is at all likely?
“I think the attitude towards international students is one that they feel criminalised and betrayed”
DS: We’ll see. From what I can tell, the party is split and there are definitely some Conservative backbenchers who are quite sympathetic. The only way we can really arrive at this is some type of cross-party bi-partisan approach. I think there has been movement recently to get ball rolling on this, in terms of getting something going, but it’s a case of doing something as soon as possible. Because we know it is already impacting on attitudes and perceptions of international students in the UK.
The PIE: We recently covered a story on UCAS applications for undergraduate study to June 30; non-EU applications hadn’t actually declined.
DS: Well it depends on which regions, so we know for a fact that those from India have declined. It’s also a question of what applications could have been had these rules not been in place.
The PIE: Yes it was commented upon that applications don’t necessarily turn into enrolments..
DS: If you look at international student populations at certain universities, it is very path-dependent. A lot of times, it’s from reccomendations; populations have been built on years and years of people recommending certain institutions to their friends and families. What we think we’re going to see is that over time there will definitely be a drop as the UK is sort of blacklisted by international students because of these visa regulations.
“They’re telling their friends, go to Canada, go to New Zealand, go to other countries”
Certainly the message out there among international students that we’re seeing is that they’re telling their friends, go to Canada, go to New Zealand, go to other countries. To be honest if you put policies side by side and their attitudes side by side, there is no reason not to.
The PIE: Is it primarily the removal of the ability to stay and work that they don’t like? [more>>]