26. Memorandum submitted by
This paper aims to investigate some of the recent
trends of incoming migration from People's Republic of China into
the United Kingdom, examined within both historical and contemporary
contexts. The focus of this briefing is to demonstrate the dramatic
increase of Chinese students pursuing academic learning in the
UK and its consequent impact on UK educational institutes, society
and its economy through analysing student migration patterns,
financial flows and individual case studies. It also points various
modifications to immigration policies and promotes social debates
on the impact of the phenomena of a massively increasing student
flow for the UK.
In 2004, the United Kingdom has
taken over USA as the single most popular destination for Chinese
students. The number of Chinese students has increased dramatically
in the past decade. It proves to be difficult to estimate the
exact number of Chinese students in the UK although it is suggested
to be in the realm of 80,000 in the academic year of 2004-05.
There are both push and pull factors
for such a large amount of students to study abroad. Chinese students
provide significant contributions to UK universities and economy.
In a survey by Chatham House (2004) of 100 Top UK universities
showed that Chinese students contributed £223 million GBP
and £300 million GBP in 2002-03 and 2003-04 respectively.
The massive inflow of Chinese students
has important social and economic impacts on the universities,
local community. Necessary policy measures must be taken to ensure
proper integration of Chinese students and provide necessary support
to younger students and victims of crimes.
Immigration polices have changed
in the past five years to provide more efficient and transparent
services to international students including those from China.
However there are still some drawbacks as shown in a few case
There are more and more Chinese
students returning back to China because of the growing economy
in homeland and demand for talents. Chinese Government's active
recruitment policy also contributes to this brain circulation.
In the future better bilateral cooperation between Chinese and
UK governments and involvement of private sector will enhance
this "win-win" migratory flow.
Migration from China to the United Kingdom and
Europe is not a new business. The first wave of Chinese settlement
in UK can be traced as early as the first half of the 18th century.
Chinese migrants are among the older communities in London. In
the past five years, Chinese migration to the United Kingdom has
become the focus of major British and international media and
raised great concerns for policy makers in both UK and China.
This is a result of two human tragedies in the UK involving the
loss of Chinese workers' lives, in Dover (June 2000) and Morecambe
Bay of Northwest England (February 2004) respectively.
However this should not overshadow the complete picture
of Chinese migrants in the UK, who are traditionally considered
as the quiet immigrant group, and there is not much research available.
With the opening-up of the Chinese economy since its economic
reforms in the 1970s, there has been significant migration flows
from China. Whilst in traditional migration theory emigration
is driven by conflict, poverty, environmental degrades, most Chinese
migrants are among the better off people benefited from the economic
development. In the past two decades, we have not only seen the
increase in quantity, but also a more diverse flow (IOM, Laczko
and Pieke 2003), particularly with the emergence of student migration.
According to a recent report from UNESCO and Ministry of Education
of China, PR China is the No 1 source country for international
students, with 460,000 in 103 countries across the world in 2002.
In the era of globalisation and knowledge driven
economy, the demand for human capital is increasing in an unprecedented
way. The rapid economic growth in China requires a vast amount
of highly educated talent in the work force. The accession of
China to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) again raises the demand
for skilled labour with international qualifications, experiences
and standards. Thus it gives great incentives for medium and upper
class Chinese families, especially those in the coastal areas
(which are the forefront of economic reform), to send their children
abroad to seek advanced education opportunities.
There are both push and pull factors for Chinese
families to send their children abroad. The prestige of foreign
degrees and advancement in English and foreign languages are the
key factors for securing a well-paid job in China. In earlier
days, many Chinese students were either government sponsored or
funded by overseas institutions; thus generous scholarships and
excellent research facilities at leading American universities
had attracted a large number of top Chinese graduates to continue
postgraduate work abroad. In the past decade, we have seen an
increase of self-financed students studying abroad. Generally,
study costs at overseas education institutions are much higher
than in China, but the low tuition fees in some countries in welfare
European countries, such as Scandinavia, Germany and France, remain
cost efficient and attract for many Chinese students. The fierce
competition for National University Entry examinations together
with family pressure for university education has also pushed
the study abroad wave. The education system in China, with four
years of study for Bachelor degrees and another two years for
master qualifications, is lengthy compared with some European
countries such as the UK. The deregulation of government policy
on migration control has also made it easy for students to pursue
With its advantages of language, academic reputation
and history, the United Kingdom benchmarked its excellence in
learning in PR China from the very beginning. However, the number
of Chinese students in Mid-1990s is still relative small, with
approximately over 2,000 Chinese students studying at Higher Education
institute but this number has jumped over 20 times in 2003-04
(please see table 1).
Nowadays, it is estimated that more 57,000 Chinese
students are officially registered with UK HE institutions, and
are counted as the second largest student group in the UK after
the EU. According to one official at the Education Section of
the Embassy of PR China in London, there are as many as 80,000
Chinese students in the UK for the year of 2004-05, a massive
increase of 10,000 for the previous academic year. Most Chinese
students pursue studies in economics and business subjects and
they are spread in universities from Southern Britain to Scotland
and from Wales to Northern Ireland.
Without doubt, this massive student inflow has great
impact on British education system as well as the society itself.
Below are some major issues related to Chinese student migration:
International students contribute greatly to the
UK Higher Education and both local as well as national economy.
According to Universities UK, in 2002-03 tuition fees paid by
Non-EU students provided 7% of UK Higher Education sector budget.
International students are worth over £10 billions GBP to
the UK economy and over £4 billions GBP to the Higher Education.
Chinese students take a great share in this financial contribution,
by paying more than £800 million pounds to UK economy for
studying and living expenses as shown in a recent Chatham House
survey. The official registration number of Chinese students is
around 43,000 students within UK Higher Education system during
2003-04 and over 90% of them are self-financed. The Chatham House
survey of Top 100 UK universities shows that students from Mainland
China contribute at least £300 million just in terms of tuition
fees, an increase of more than 30% of the previous academic year
(£223 million GBP for 2002-03). This gives a substantial
income for British universities and for those facing financial
crisis an important economic relief. British universities operate
on the contributions from Government Grants and Students' Tuition
Fees. In some extreme cases, Chinese students contribution equivalents
to as much as 29% of Government Grants, as for example is the
reported case of the University of Essex. Furthermore the income
generated by living expenses such as housing and other consumption
by Chinese students amount to a staggering amount of £479
million GBP which totals the Chinese students contribution to
£779 million GBP to UK economy in just one year. This amount
will certainly rise again as the increasing international students
tuition and growing living costs every academic year.
A few (younger) students also find themselves in
trouble (eg victims of crime or bullying). The wealthier students
from China undoubtedly suffer from increased robbery, quite high
levels of bullying, and threats to personal safety. It is not
only computers and equipment that are targeted. The Passport itself
is one of the most attractive acquisitions to thieves and gangs.
These criminal organisations, often international in scope, will
recycle them as part of organised illegal immigration.
With the tendency for younger Chinese students to
go abroad, there has been vast concern over their safety in the
UK, and accidents are frequently caught and reported by Chinese
media which also attracted public pressure from both countries.
Immigration policy and case studies
Compared to other OECD countries, UK has a relatively
high stock of international students. In order to retain this
competitiveness, the UK Government has implemented a series of
changes to promote faster and more efficient immigration procedures.
Visa or Entry Clearance is the main obstacle for Chinese students
and Asian and African students entering the UK. Up till now, one
of the main criteria for the issuance of visa is the intention
of leaving UK after studies and sufficient financial resources.
Since 1999, a series of policy changes was thought
out to increase the UK share of international students. The growing
number of Chinese students who wish to study in the UK has made
visa applications almost double between 2001 and 2004-05. Flexibility
in entry procedure and streamlining of visa services are just
among them. According to the Education Section of British Mission
in China, there were 19,632 visas issued in 2004. There is also
a substantial amount of visa applications being refused (approximately
20-30% per year according to Chinese media and British Embassy).
This outcome is mainly attributed to the fake documents supplied
by the applicants and misleading conduct by student recruitment
agencies. Under the new policy, students are not required to have
an interview and in many cases judgements are based on solely
the documents supplied by the applicants. It does in one way speed
up the process, but it also omits the chances for students to
offer clarifications and explanations unless so requested by the
visa officer. On the other hand, as said earlier, some British
institutions, especially language schools, pre-university colleges,
may choose to place economic profits over teaching quality. These
schools and sometimes fake institutions not only harm Chinese
students, families and UK education image but create various problems
from illegal students migration.
Recently the UK Government has implemented new legislation
which allows students to gain work experience in UK. However they
are mainly sector based and only cover students in medical, ICT
and some other science subjects. A new scheme implemented from
October, has allowed non-EEA nationals who have graduated from
UK higher or further education establishments in certain physical
sciences, mathematics and engineering subjects with good grades
to remain in the UK for 12 months after their studies in order
to pursue a career. This kind of policy adjustment is two fold:
it makes a more attractive education package for international
students, and furthermore, it is also part of UK government's
strategy to retain international intellectual assets for UK's
economy. There has also been regional initiative, such as the
"Fresh Talents" scheme in Scotland to enhance the education
package and attract more international students to study and work
in Scotland after graduation.
Access to quality education
Local UK residents are starting to worry about local
students' access to education, especially into the popular and
highly ranked universities.
Seduced by the rich prospects offered by international
tuition fees, many UK universities (including Cambridge, Oxford
and other elite universities) have substantially increased quotas
for international students, including, of course, those from China
and naturally there may be less space left for home students,
especially where, for lack of funding, there are restraints on
expanding teaching facilities, buildings and equipment, due in
part to a lack of Government funding or sponsorship.
Moreover, in individual classes, where well over
may be students with limited English language skills, there are
real fears among UK students and their parents that this will
inevitably slow down the class teaching quality, both in speed
of delivery and depth of content and intellectual rigour.
Competition among Universities
Competition between universities for student recruitment
can impact negatively, in the so called case of "race-to-the-bottom".
Most British schools use agents in China to help to recruit students.
The competition is fierce and bitter among them.
It follows then for marketing and economic interests, some agentstogether
with schoolschoose to ignore or at least lower academic
requirements. As a result, many under-qualified candidates are
recruited which eventually leads to drop out and illegal employment
among those students in UK.
For most Chinese student migrants, it is the first
time for them to live independently abroad, away from home, from
the close-knit family support and the unspoken shared values and
cultural norms. They may well lack the ability to integrate and
adapt to these new surroundings, which may well seem hostile to
newcomers. This will not only cause academic problems, but also
social tensions, posing serious security threats to the community.
With an average debt of over £12,000, many UK
students are forced to take part-time employment while studying,
in order to supplement their increasingly limited income and,
being charged tuition fees, on top of taking out student loans.
But these very same jobs are now sought by in-coming international
students. To take a part time job helps defray what are to them
huge living costs when compared with costs in their home country.
So in a very immediate and visible way, we see more pressures
on local residents in University towns within that scarce often
tense labour market.
Some young migrant students are also induced or forced
to join illegal work, such as drug dealing, prostitution and may
become mixed up with criminal gangs, which pose even more security
threats to the community.
Here there are some case studies which can illustrate
some drawbacks of UK immigration policies towards Chinese and
other international students:
Case AVisa and Extension Fees
Student A came to UK to study a bachelor programme
in economics. Because her relative low score of IELTS (International
English Language Test System) test score she was admitted with
conditions to her chosen university. One requirement for entering
her degree programme is satisfactory participation in the Pre-University
Language Course organised by the university. Because of her conditional
offer, she was granted a visa only for the duration of the language
class. At the end of her language course, she has to apply for
an extension for her visa. This does not only require a lot of
preparation but also costs her a large sum of application fees.
Visa extension fees have become an increasing financial burden
to becoming especially after the raise of service charges by the
Home Office. This is quite a common case for many students who
could face a fee of up to £500 GBP for extending their stay
in the UK. Student A is concerned about having to pay another
£500 GBP for visa extension if she could not finish her BSc
programme in three years time (because of placement). A total
amount of £1,000 GBP is more than 10% of her annual tuition
fees and much more than the average annual income of a worker
in China as said by Student A. This high visa extension fees have
been described as very disappointing by Universities UK and many
UK educational institutes are nervous about its "detrimental"
impact on their recruitment of international students. This may
also lead to the opportunistic behaviour of international students
to overstay in order to finish their studies without paying the
Case BProblem of communication within UK Government
Student B came to pursue a PhD degree at a UK
university. He was issued a three year student visa. However,
as part of his research funding, he has been selected to work
as a research assistant at the University in the summer prior
to his PhD. After the hassles of getting a work permit, he applied
for and was later granted another visa for his work permit (six
months validation) at the British Consulate in China. He was assured
that it would be safe to have two visas and it would not create
any problem for his immigration status. Upon arrival in UK, he
used his work permit visa to pass through the immigration control.
When the student arrived in the university, he registered at the
local police station with his two visas and was told everything
is correct in order.
However, when he applied for a European Schengen
Visa, he was told by the Head of Consular Services of a European
Embassy that his long-term UK visa is not valid as it was issued
before the short-term work permit visa (which will expire shortly).
The student then was told to go to Home Office Headquarters in
Croydon to verify his immigration status. After queuing in the
rain and heavy winds outside the Home Office for hours, the student
was told his student visa is not valid and he needs to get a new
visa immediately. He was given the option to apply either by post
or by premium service which will cost up to £500 GBP, despite
the Chinese student who both of visas and explained his assurance
from both British Consulate in China and his police registration
certificate. He was under great time pressure and then told the
Home Office operates differently from Foreign and Commonwealth
Office. One other option is to get a new visa or certification
from the British Consulate in China or get his old student visa
approved and stamped at the passport control at British border.
But he was warned about the possibility of being refused to enter
although he had a "valid" UK student visa.
This was very difficult situation for a student who
just arrived in the UK and early faced the risk of being expelled.
This shows the lack of communication between different UK governmental
bodies in managing student migration, in terms of issuance of
visa. Although policy registration is compulsory, but it proves
to have no legal power when the student presented his registration
certificate in the Home Office. Eventually this Chinese student
has to apply for a new student visa at a British overseas mission
and cancel his previous student visa. So in total, a student who
follows strictly all immigration rules ended up having three visas
in his passport and spent countless days and nights worrying about
his immigration position. This situation can be easily avoided
by a more coordinated effort (data sharing, information exchange
etc.) by different administrative bodies to provide a more simplified
and user friendly immigration service to international students
who often have less knowledge of legal and immigration rules.
Case Study CStudent Worker or Working Student?
Student C comes from a middle-income family
in China. His family has exhausted all of their financial resources
to support him to study in UK. Unlike those from a wealthy background,
his family expects him to find a part-time to defray the studying
costs and financial pressure from the parents. A student C study
in London, one of the most expensive places in the world but his
interpretation was it would be easier for him to find petty jobs.
However, with limited language skills he is already behind the
class during the first semester of his studies. Instead of spending
more time in the library, he had to work to finance his daily
expenses. This made his studies worse. At the end, he decided
to work full-time and seldom go to his university. His family
does not know about this and thought he was a good student and
worked hard in his spare time. He was also too ashamed to tell
his family about his real situation when he went for home visit.
He knows his family expects him to find a good job in London and
earn the money back in UK.
However, as his student visa is expiring soon, he
needs to extend his visa. Obviously, his university will not provide
further registration certificate to him since he failed most of
his courses. So he found a language school that charged him tuition
fees and gave him the necessary papers for visa extension. The
school is not interested his attendance but just the cash income.
But for Student C, he could now continue to work in London as
a "full-time student labour". In this case, one thing
we could not ignore is the working condition these students are
facing. They are in a way, "stateless" and are under
pressure and risk everyday and they are often exploited by employers
because of this.
There is one major draw back for studying in UK.
This is the fact that UK is outside the pan-European Schengen
Agreement, which allows Third-Country Nationals to move freely
with Schengen Area. This would pose difficult for Chinese students'
mobility within Europe and would be a major obstacle for them
to participate in the newly implemented EU Programme, Erasmus
Mundus. Last not least, many students are also concerned about
having to fill landing card all the time ask immigration questions
every time return to UK despite having a long term student visa.
Often they find this as unwelcoming and are embarrassed when being
questioned at Passport control.
The security measures after September 11 in the USA
have tightened up students' flow to America. Consequently there
appear to be more Chinese students choosing to study in the UK.
In a recent British Council report, the Chinese student population
is projected to reach 130,900 in 2020, a triple jump to the current
Growing student migration from China will certainly
affect China's ability to integrate into global markets. This
could be a significant factor for the transfer of knowledge by
students to their home regions. The Chinese Government, and particularly
some Provincial Governments in coastal areas, has implemented
several recruitment strategies to bring Chinese students abroad
to work and invest in China.
There has been a tremendous resultthe return
rate of students is expected to increase by over 10% every year
since 2001. More than 4,000 high-tech firms were set up in China
by returned overseas students, who are called Hai Gui (which literally
means sea turtle). There is also a tightening on the registration
of education agents as part of government's action to regulate
overseas education market.
Better migration management is needed to make a win-win
situation for student migration, and improvement relies on institutional
coordination and cooperation. For UK institutions, it is important
to bear in the mind both the economic and social impact of student
migrants' flow in the entire process from selection to integration.
Exploitative behaviour by Agents can be avoided by using a selective
list of Agents accredited by both Governments, and the
mutual recognition of qualifications according to international
Better data sharing would also help the management
of student migration. Chinese Embassies and Consulates abroad
have been asking students to register when they arrive in the
new country. This is an essential requirement if the students
want their qualifications accredited when they finish their courses.
Unfortunately there is still little exchange between China and
UK on student data. By means of data sharing, it refers to multi-lateral
and bi-lateral sharing as well as intra government, such as in
the case of Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Migration
Department and Trade Department.
The private sector is also an important driving force
for positive brain circulation. Many corporations are starting
to recruit Chinese students abroad (Volkswagen, BMW, McKinsey),
then train and repatriate them back to China. A private-public
partnership between governments, universities and private corporations
would help to sustain this channel of talent circulation. Fortunately,
this is already happening in the UK. Companies like Ernst &
Young have developed programmes to give Chinese graduates the
chance to train in London as UK Chartered Accountants and later
work in China with their valuable experiences in Europe.
In conclusion, this special migratory flow of Chinese
students has a deep impact on the British higher education system,
economy and society and brought UK and China in a closer community.
In the 21st century it is of great interest for UK and Chinese
Governments to encourage and facilitate such mutually beneficial
global cooperation and in so creating a platform of "education
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14 February 2006
12 Generally speaking, there is higher percentage
of international students in postgraduate education. Of the 8,000
students at LSE, more than 60% are from outside the UK, and a
very large proportion of those from outside the EU or from non-English
speaking countries. (http://www.lsesu.com/main/equality/international). Back