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ELT guru backs UK visa concern debate

ELT supremo Jeremy Harmer has added his voice to concerns over current UK visa policy harming the UK's international education industry...
February 13 2012
1 Min Read

Talking to The PIE News last week at a Dickens-themed English language learning event, renowned ELT writer, Jeremy Harmer, echoed the concerns about government visa policy aired by the British Council’s director of education and society. “I think the government has to be really, really careful not to use a political ideology to ruin one of the most important industries this country has, worth billions of pounds,” he said.

“If you get a home secretary who is desperate to prove her anti-immigration credentials without looking at the sheer benefit that foreign students bring to this country – both in terms on money but more importantly a positive relationship with this country – then you mess with that at your peril. My fear all along is this is what they have been doing.”

He joins a growing number of commentators alarmed at the impact that visa changes and a ban on post-study work rights from April may have on the perception of the UK as an international study destination. Harmer spoke during a British Council event celebrating the bicentenary of Charles Dickens’ birth.

Held at Dickens’ former London home, Tavistock House, the event featured excerpts from a Tale of Two Cities and Bleak House among others, with musical accompaniment from violinist Steve Bingham, a former guest leader of the English Sinfonia. Guests from across the ELT sector were also treated to Dickensian canapés and tours of the grounds.

“This isn’t just about language teaching… It’s about the beauty of language and the power of words to tell stories”

Dickens fan Harmer said Dickens’ work was a natural advertisement for the English language. “You just get carried away by the power of the stories; they’re wonderful, funny, tragic, terrifying. This isn’t just about language teaching… It’s about the beauty of language and the power of words to tell stories.”

The event was run by the Global English team and is part of a worldwide Dickens campaign by the Council. Melissa Cudmore, senior adviser, English and Exams said: “The Dickens seminar was the perfect opportunity to bring people together, not just in the UK but globally as well… Overseas you have many people with an interest in Dickens and a passion for English language, and it gives them a vehicle to talk about it.”


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