The University must do more to integrate international students

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By Euan Merrilees, First Year Philosophy

Bristol has measures in place, but it must do more if international students are to interact with home students.

Despite having a British passport and the thickest RP accent you will have ever heard, I am classified as an international student.

This does not seem too bad at first: an extra nine thousand pounds a year is a pain. But annoyingly, not that unfair.

It makes logical sense that a local student who is born and raised in the UK should have a greater priority to education than an expat who has grown up in Singapore.

It is a subsidization of the local, not a tax on the foreign.

Besides, the main reason why I decided not to study in Singapore was that I viewed British higher education to be the best in the world. Some part of me also wanted to immerse myself in the culture, ideals, and way of life that influenced the former Colony of Singapore to be what it is today.

However, when I arrived, a certain foul word stank in the air.

It began with B and ended with exit. I saw its effects immediately with my poor mum. A wife to a British citizen and a mother to a British Citizen, she lived in London for close to two decades and had indefinite leave to remain (or permanent residency) and desperately wanted to come back to London as a family.

Seeing her right to remain revoked was only the start of it. The hassle was worse.

A bureaucratic and bogged down visa application system rejected her desire to renew her right to remain and did not allow her to appeal. Only ‘chumocracy’ with the British high commissioner in Singapore eventually allowed her to come and live in the UK with her husband. Still, being singled out in immigration and told to wait three hours while border security verified her paperwork was less than fun for her.

But, I did not lose hope. Universities are all about progress, knowledge, and the sharing of ideas. Surely, they would be more welcoming to us and our different views on life and culture.

Initially, I found that to be the case.

By and large, students themselves were a lot more open and a great deal less judgemental than any other group. The University even pitched in, organising a series of gatherings of overseas students to meet up and get to know each other while sightseeing in Bristol.

However, I soon learnt that these meetups were a symptom of a problem that I believe is unintentional and unconscious.

There seems to be a lot of natural segregation amongst foreign students, particularly if English is not their first language. For example, in Clifton Hill House alone, most of the East Asian students were put on the same hall as me. They are a tight-knit group that I have only ever heard speaking Mandarin. C floor is home to most Spanish students, who are again very close.

Not only would bridging this divide make foreign students feel more welcome, but it would also increase the chances of foreign students staying in the UK.

It may be that when you leave people be, they naturally tend to homogenous communities and things that are familiar.

However, I believe that the University must make a greater effort to properly integrate overseas students with local ones.

Not only would bridging this divide make foreign students feel more welcome, but it would also increase the chances of foreign students staying in the UK. According to the Higher Education Policy Institute, international students contribute £20 billion a year to the economy, ten times what the government sacrifices for them.

I believe that the University must make a greater effort to properly integrate overseas students with local ones.

The PM’s long-held policy to count foreign students in immigration numbers for reducing, seems counterintuitive, as you have the best and the brightest of other nations coming to enrich the country’s brain and wallet. In 2017, 58 current world leaders had studied in the UK, the most in the world. This has dropped to 57 as of 2018, still only one behind that of the USA.

One may look at the University of Edinburgh’s desire to have 50:50 international to local student body as a good thing then.

However, this is an example of positive discrimination, an absolute NO in my book. Accepting an application for the sake of filling quotas is not only unfair but damaging in the long run.

In an ideal world, we accept and hire those who are the best person for that position.

Positive discrimination will only widen the gap between international students and local ones.

Besides, considering that tuition is free if you are Scottish, Edinburgh has an incentive to choose international over local. This is not healthy and this can breed resentment.

Nonetheless, something needs to be done so that international students at university do not spend their years only mixing with other internationals.
Ending the unconscious ‘them and us’ mentality would not only make universities far richer, both intellectually and monetarily, but it would also have the same effect on the country if applied on a national level.

Internationals have so much to offer, if only they were given a chance.

Featured image: Unsplash/Kyle Glenn

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