Theresa May becoming the new Prime Minister of Great Britain could prove to be bad news for overseas students due to her strict views on sending all foreign alumni back to their countries of residence.
The former Home Secretary has been unwavering in her efforts to maintain international students as net migration targets, despite appeals from universities and ministers pleading with her to liberate them.
Many lobbyists in the Higher Education system have accused May of intransigence, an article from the Times Higher Education remarks. There are claims that she has failed to evaluate this situation from a humanistic point of view and is instead, quite unnecessarily enforcing a regime aimed at asylum seekers on students.
May has claimed in the past that:
“I don’t care what the university lobbyists say. The rules must be enforced. Students, yes; overstayers, no.”
This did not go down well with Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute and special advisor to Lord Willetts when he was minister for universities and science.
Mr. Hillman stated that May was a ‘tough negotiator’ when it came to allowing international students some freedom and implied that only ‘respected institutions’ (Universities in the Russell Group) would be allowed some degree of freedom in this area.
In the same article from the Times Higher Education, Mr. Hillman was quoted saying:
“Pretty much any likely replacement for David Cameron, apart from Theresa May, would be good news for international students. But now [Ms May looks set to be prime minister] – that worries me a bit in relation to international students.
“In her time as home secretary, we never found the Home Office particularly understanding of the university sector, shall we say?
“And they were always much keener than we would have ever been to have drawn a line…between the Russell Group, or ‘top third’ institutions, in some way, and the rest.”
May was held under formal inquiry in 2014 after unlawfully deporting almost 50,000 international students waiting to take their TOEIC tests. An article from the Independent outlines how she spent taxpayers’ money on lengthy appeals yet she never provided any evidence from any English Testing Service (ETS). The tribunal ended with the courts stating that the Home Secretary’s actions were ‘wrongful and based on poor evidence’. The president of the ETS responsible for the ‘fraudulent’ test claimed that:
“The legal burden of proof falling on the Secretary of State has not been discharged. The Appellants [those extradited] are clear winners.”
The Home Office which May was directing has come under fire in the past for ‘spearheading abusive policies eroding the rights of international students’, an article from the Huffington Post posits. May has been the catalyst pushing recent policies aimed at overseas students such as making them pay to use the NHS, reducing the amount of time they can stay in the country after graduation from 2 years to 4 months and submitting them to visa check ups.
Despite the global notoriety that May has bequeathed upon the UK’s educational system, evidenced by a damming article from The Hindu news site, some believe that her appointment as PM will mark the end of her rigorous policy on student immigration.
Paul Blomfield, Labour MP for Sheffield Central and a long-standing campaigner on overseas student issues, said to Times Higher Education that:
“Theresa May has been unhelpful to universities as home secretary, but I hope that a new job might bring a new approach.”
The newly appointed Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, boasts on her website that she has made huge improvements to education in Rye and Hastings. Her international policy, however, focuses more on preventing Ebola and Syrian refugees from entering the UK as opposed to kicking students out.