The United Kingdom Border Agency’s (UKBA) decision to cancel the London Metropolitan University’s right to admit students from outside the EU — an action that may see at least 2,500 students fighting to avoid deportation — will have far-reaching repercussions, with the UK’s reputation as the premier destination for acquiring higher education bound to suffer. According to the UKBA, many of the university’s international students did not possess valid visas, had “attendance problems” and limited English-speaking skills. The decision has sent shockwaves through the international student body, as well as the country’s higher education sector, which relies significantly on its international students for revenue.
Admittedly, there are thousands of illegal immigrants who have entered the UK pretending to be students. Mounting security concerns and increased fears among sections of the local population of being swamped by foreigners seem to be bearing fruit. Many lower-tier UK universities are known to have engaged in dubious practices that enable the enrollment of foreigners without valid visas. However, making life difficult for students possessing valid documentation — who have spent thousands of pounds on their education — will not solve the problem.
If UK universities have been lax in their policies, one fails to understand the logic behind punishing numerous bonafide students unfairly, instead of setting up systems that identify those not possessing valid visas. The UK government needs to review the way the UKBA functions. The agency’s inefficiency has been well reported, as it has been known to hold thousands of passports for long periods of time when processing visas. A more efficient and transparent system is needed to carry out this task. This latest measure by the UKBA seems to be more of a cop-out as it appears that the agency does not want to make a concerted effort to identify illegal immigrants, relying instead on sweeping measures that will have negative repercussions for all stakeholders. Thousands of Pakistanis are currently studying in the UK and our government and high commission in London would be well advised to help those affected by this action so that they can stay in the UK to complete their studies.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd, 2012.