Joint statement from the University of Sheffield and its Students’ Union on the Immigration Bill
Openness to talented young people from around the world is at the heart of the UK’s world-leading universities. It is a powerful source of international collaboration and understanding as generations of leaders in every sphere of life have been given the opportunity to learn from and alongside the most able people from every continent.
It is our shared belief that the truly international educational experience which has characterised the UK’s higher education system for decades plays a crucial role in building understanding between young people of many nations, challenging cultural barriers and in the process providing the first-hand experience of different cultures which is so vital as we strive for a better, more peaceful world.
Our deep concern is that the UK’s reputation as a welcoming host for international students is being damaged by negative messages associated with concerns about immigration more widely.
This is both unjust and unhelpful. International students as a body are an asset to this country, and their economic benefit dramatically outweighs any costs. In Sheffield, like many other cities across the UK, international students form a bedrock of economic stability for local businesses and organisations alongside their British colleagues. Last year the University of Sheffield commissioned an independent report which found that in 2012 international students brought £120m net benefit to the local economy, taking account of any costs incurred to the NHS.
The University of Sheffield and the Students’ Union have particular concerns in relation to the new Immigration Bill.
The Bill proposes a healthcare levy of at least £200 per annum. Any decision to charge international students to access the NHS will add an extra disincentive to study in the UK, especially for postgraduate research students, who may spend a long time gaining their qualification and may be accompanied by family members, including young children. Such students bring expertise and innovation to our country, including to medicine and health, and make a significant net contribution to the economy. We are concerned that some students who are already making a major investment in the UK’s economy will be unable to cover these costs, with worrying implications for their health.
Mandatory visa checks by landlords for non-EU nationals
The Bill proposes that landlords check the visas of anyone who appears to be ‘foreign’. We are deeply concerned that in practice this proposal is open to abuse and misinterpretation, and it is raising concerns about discrimination in the past when foreign or non-white residents of the UK were treated with mistrust and suspicion as they sought housing.
Any potential for discriminatory practices on these grounds is not only dangerous for our international students, but is a cause for concern amongst any black or minority ethnic residents of the United Kingdom. In addition, many international students rely on their passport as their only form of identification. If landlords hold student passports, this places international students in a vulnerable position.
Further proposals to extend the checking of immigration status to the provision of bank accounts add to concerns about a 'surveillance culture' for our international students beyond what is reasonable. The loss of appeal rights also means that international students will find it more difficult to contest decisions on visas and immigration by the Home Office.
The city and University of Sheffield has a proud history of welcoming international students. The city, its businesses and residents understand that international students bring not only much needed inward investment and economic benefits, but a cultural vibrancy which is valued around the world.
Our University has staff and students from over 120 countries, and our graduates are found on every continent. For them, the UK and the city of Sheffield have a special meaning and we are proud of our connections and friendships around the world, and the great good which is done in the UK and globally as our research and students address global challenges and make a powerful difference.
For this reason, we feel we must openly raise our concerns about proposals within this Bill and call on the government to welcome and protect the well-being of the international students who bring so much to our universities and to the UK.
The University of Sheffield
With nearly 25,000 of the brightest students from 117 countries coming to learn alongside 1,209 of the world’s best academics, it is clear why the University of Sheffield is one of the UK’s leading universities. Staff and students at Sheffield are committed to helping discover and understand the causes of things - and propose solutions that have the power to transform the world we live in.
A member of the Russell Group, the University of Sheffield has a reputation for world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines. The University of Sheffield has been named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards 2011 for its exceptional performance in research, teaching, access and business performance. In addition, the University has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes (1998, 2000, 2002, 2007), recognising the outstanding contribution by universities and colleges to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.
One of the markers of a leading university is the quality of its alumni and Sheffield boasts five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students. Its alumni have gone on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.
Research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, Boots, AstraZeneca, GSK, Siemens, Yorkshire Water and many more household names, as well as UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.
The University has well-established partnerships with a number of universities and major corporations, both in the UK and abroad. The White Rose University Consortium (White Rose) a strategic partnership between 3 of the UK's leading research universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York. Since its creation in 1997 White Rose has secured more than £100M into the Universities.
For further information please contact:
Media Relations Manager
The University of Sheffield
0114 222 5339