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Closer Look

A RECENT move by the UK Government to invite international students to live, work and study in UK universities begs many questions and answers.

According to a May 30, 2022 BBC report headlined World’s top graduates get new UK visa option, “graduates from the world’s top universities” can now apply to study in the UK under a new visa scheme aimed at “high-potential individuals,” to attract the world’s “brightest and best” students, “early in their careers.”

The new scheme is available to “alumni of the top non-UK universities who have graduated in the past five years” and regardless of where they were born, they “will not need a job offer in order to apply.”

Successful applicants will get a work visa lasting “two years if they hold a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree” and “three years if they hold a PhD”; and will be able to “switch to other long-term employment visas if they meet certain requirements,” with “no cap on the number of eligible graduates.”

Applicants “must have attended a university which appeared in the top 50 of at least two of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, the Quacquarelli Symonds World University Rankings or The Academic Ranking of World Universities, in the year in which they graduated.”

According to the BBC Report, “The list of eligible universities from 2021 (published online by the UK government) features 20 US universities, including Harvard, Yale and MIT, in addition to a further 17 qualifying institutions, including the University of Hong Kong, University of Melbourne and the Paris Sciences et Lettres University.”

But guess what? As nice and inviting as it all sounds and looks – and as the BBC itself reports — “no South Asian, Latin American or African universities are included on the new UK list.”

Christopher Trisos, Director and Senior Researcher at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, commenting on the scheme, told the BBC: “It is a deeply inequitable approach”; and if the UK wants to play a role in addressing the major challenges of this century like energy access, climate change and pandemics, he added, “they need to be recognising and including diverse skills and in-depth knowledge held by many graduates from universities in developing countries.”

But with more European university graduates unemployed now than ever and the average unlucky student neck-deep in debt, the crisis facing UK education was summed up in an earlier May 22 article in The Telegraph, with the following very telling and questioning headline: £45k of Debt and No Job At the End – Is A British University Degree Worth Having Any More?

UK and US educational institutions over decades fashioned university education attractively enough to ensure continuous interest by overseas students through what most in developing nations appropriately called a Brain Drain. In recent times, however, foreign students have been increasingly outperforming locals in a widening number of subjects at UK and American universities, eventually landing key jobs into which they earned their way, but which those fairly outperformed are encouraged by anti-immigrant politicians and policies to see and treat as local jobs going to foreigners, who need to be washed or laundered out of the system.

Just as interesting, after benefitting at all levels from decades of the Brain Drain, the UK beneficiaries are now seeking to reverse the process through a Brain Strain that prevents the brightest from developing nations from slipping through the new net, never mind their universities’ top places in global rankings – such as The University of the West Indies (The UWI), that in recent years, even measured by the UK’s own new yardstick, annually registers higher among the top one per cent of universities globally.

Caribbean universities and others from nations affected stand to learn the hard way, yet again, from this new and free practical lesson from the UK on how to achieve the same sum-total and end-game results of targeted exclusion of bright brains, whether by drain or strain.