Student Visas - Home Affairs Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by Cardiff University (SV59)

Although we share the Government's commitment to improving the public's confidence in the immigration system and its concerns about abuse of the student visa route (there is only 2% abuse of the visa system in the higher education sector), restricting the number of legitimate students who can study in the UK will have a number of unintended consequences.

Limiting international student mobility will cause academic, political and economic harm to universities. It will negatively impact the global standing of the UK and damage the wider economy. And as importantly, it will limit the significant role higher education plays in supporting the Government's commitment to delivering on the Millennium Development Goals and other strategic priorities.

UK higher education enjoys an excellent reputation overseas. Students from developing countries in particular look to the UK for the high quality of the education, which often cannot be found in their home countries. For example our Postgraduate Masters course in Public Health in our School of Medicine attracts 22 international students from seven countries, including Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, who return to their home country to make a positive impact on their own health care systems. These students may be restricted from studying in the UK if these changes go ahead.

Our undergraduate course in Medicine only accepts international students from countries where there is inadequate medical education in their home country. Over time this leads to capacity building overseas and supports the medical infrastructure in these source countries. Many of these students undertake English Language training on our feeder course before embarking on that undergraduate medical course.

Cardiff University offers a wide range of postgraduate masters courses in health related disciplines. Currently we have students from 39 countries, including Sudan, Uganda, Ghana, Kuwait, Libya, Malawi and the Philippines studying here.

One particular student from The Republic of Namibia successfully completed her studies in our Department of Dermatology and Wound Healing, to later return home as the only qualified dermatologist in her country.

This practical development of higher level skills applies to many areas within the University. For example, masters programmes in Sustainable Development (Cardiff University's Welsh School of Architecture), International Journalism and Political Communication (School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies), International Planning and Development (School of City and Regional Planning), Human Resource Management (Cardiff University's Business School), or Civil Engineering. Again, these courses support capacity building overseas and align to the work of the Department of International Development.

Alongside many of the economic arguments for continuing to welcome international students to the UK, students are not economic migrants. Those who have studied in the UK, many of whom are sponsored by overseas governments, return home as ambassadors for the UK, and have an important role in fostering longstanding diplomatic and trade relations between the UK and their home country.

They are also part of developing an international education system. These systems have an important role to play in the development of global citizens—people that are aware of the wider world, who understand how it works economically, politically, socially, culturally, technologically and environmentally. It is also key to the UK and other developed knowledge economies, and as such should be seen as a significant element of advancing education systems of emerging economies.

Equally important is the benefit international students bring to our home students. They add enormously to the multi-culturalism, diversity and vibrancy of the University's learning and teaching environment which benefits everyone in the University, the city, and Wales.

It is vitally important that the government policy to reduce net migration is implemented in such a way as to minimise the damage to the university sector, and to the UK's role in a global society.

We would be very grateful if you would consider sharing this information with your colleagues on the Home Affairs Select Committee.

February 2011

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