The UKBA recently announced that applications by international students were on the rise. Unusual for an agency that prefers to inform about the arrests made and its offices closed worldwide. The reason for this piece of news is the communication war raging to win public opinion and policymakers in the immigration debate.
Late January Roehampton university representatives were asked to speak before the House of Lords about the impact of visa rules on international students. They echoed views that international students are not only a invaluable source of revenue but also contribute to building a rich learning environment for all students. For its representatives the university has retained a good proportion of international students thanks to increased recruitment efforts at considerable costs, but the diversity is at risk because of the higher difficulties faced by applicants from a series of countries. There was also concern that the way in which they were being treated by the UKBA was severely damaging to the UK's reputation and attractiveness. They called for a better quality of service to those students paying large sums to study here.
Similarly,Loughborough university published a report with a law firm from Nottingham, highlighting similar concerns.
The trouble with the UKBA's announcement is that applications don't necessarily result in students coming to the UK. Equally, because many applicants have reported problems applying, they have had to reapply. The UKBA has not disclosed if the numbers of applications was the total of requests for student visas or if repeated applications by the same person were discounted. That is the problem with this whole debate, figures are rarely explained so that they can be used to fit the storyline desired....