Beyond Immigration – the impact of the permanent cap on Higher Education

Over the past few months, Tory-LibDem Higher Education policies have been under the spotlight, mainly due to the controversial issue of students’ fees. However, there are also other, less apparent, aspects implicit in the political plans of the coalition which could have a huge impact on Universities. One of these concerns immigration. By April 2011, the government aims at introducing a permanent cap on immigration. Whilst consultations on the final draft of the bill are still taking place, an increasing number of commentators are now emphasising how the policy could pose a serious threat on the UK Higher Education system, by limiting altogether the number of ‘skilled workers’ coming to the country.

If no amendments are made to the proposal, UK Universities will have to face both major cuts in funding and a significant reduction in the ability to recruit students and staff from abroad, especially if they are non-EU. The negative impact of this “double whammy” on Higher Education seems to have been largely underestimated by the government.

An immigration system that does not support the efforts made by UK Universities to attract talents from abroad, would affect and undermine such aspects as academic quality, research excellency and the economy of universities. Moreover, the new arrangement could encourage a brain-spill from within the UK. The long-term effects of such a short-sighted approach could be devastating, as the cases of other countries (Australia and Italy, for examples) clearly illustrate.

Categories: Higher Education

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