University of Sheffield and its Students’ Union have said they are deeply concerned 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.”
In a joint statement, the University and the Students’ Union said the negative messages were “both unjust and unhelpful.”
They noted that “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.”
An independent report commissioned by the University of Sheffield last year revealed 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 opposed the healthcare levy proposed by 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.”
The University of Sheffield and the Students’ Union said international students bring expertise and innovation to the UK, “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,” they added.
The University of Sheffield and the Students’ Union also criticised the mandatory visa checks by landlords for non-EU nationals. “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.”
They further noted that any potential for discriminatory practices on these grounds is not only dangerous for 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,” the University of Sheffield and the Students’ Union said.