Pursuing higher education is generally an extremely expensive choice across the globe, for both home and international students. Already astronomical tuition fees are regularly hiked for those intending to move to an institution from another country, meaning the financial blow suffered by international students can be huge. This does not begin to consider all the other aspects of university life: a cascade of money is needed for staples such as rent and food, but also for socialising, extra-curricular training and equipment, and an abundance of other things which contribute towards a well-rounded, enjoyable student life.
Luckily, at many institutions, the monetary hurdles of being an international student are addressed. In Germany, public university students from the EU are permitted to work freely, whilst those from other countries are given 120 full-time days a year as standard. There is limited scope to apply for a permit, if more working hours are desired. There are similar stipulations in place in Australia, Austria, Russia, and the US, to name a few.
There are also such rules in the UK, which generally allow international students to work up to 20 hours a week. But these governmental regulations apply to public universities only. Conversely, overseas students studying at private institutions are not afforded the same opportunities. The visas allocated to those at independent HE colleges forbid UK employment. These restrictions are also in place for those holding a Student Visitor visa. Non-EEA individuals can opt to take a short course of study, but cannot take on a job whilst in the UK.
The impetus behind these restrictions is the surfacing of ‘bogus colleges’ over the last few years – fake colleges designed to enable people from outside the EEA to obtain a work permit. As part of their attempt to crack down on these scams, the government subsequently formed tougher regulations around private institutions. If independent colleges cannot provide working visas for overseas students, then consequently any institution masquerading as legitimate can no longer claim to provide them either.
These rules, though, provide an all-encompassing blanket response which damages many innocent people. In an article from November 2013, Keton Kishor Parmar discusses his experiences when attending the Greenwich School of Management, a private college. As an international student, he was prohibited from working. Parmar describes how his inability to procure independent income took a toll on his monetary situation, his welfare and his social life. As the “Work prohibited” status also bans voluntary or unpaid work, students in Parmar’s position are not able to gather any work experience to enhance their employability prospects. This greatly reduces the attractiveness of moving to the UK to study; lower income results in sunken morale and less scope to glean practical professional experience.
The simple fact is the possibility of employment is a huge incentive in picking a college, which has resulted in some institutions trying to cheat the system. A few months ago, the London School of Business and Finance was accused to have hundreds of international students in illegal work. It transpired that many of the students were sponsored by Glyndwr University, but were studying with LBSF under a partnership with them. The investigation led to a sudden revocation of visas, resulting in a court case. In their attempt to sidestep the guidelines and allow international learners to work, LBSF’s actions resulted in misery for many students, with medical assessments of debilitating stress being recorded.
As money and work experience play such vital roles in Higher Education, it seems absurd to discriminate against privately educated overseas students who have just as much desire to reap the most from their studies as public university students. A blanket ban on employment for all privately educated international students leads to many unfair casualties. Those who are banned from work suffer the consequences of a strictly tight budget. Those who are promised a robust loophole may have their opportunities seized and their lives upheaved.
The Home Office has been quoted as saying: “This government will always take decisive action to prevent people from cheating their way into Britain.” This is indeed a noble intent, but current methods are contributing to the severe detriment of hundreds of guiltless students. Whilst bogus colleges are undeniably a danger that must be eradicated, more nuanced policy is required in order to cease unfair restrictions on pupils at legitimate private HE schools.