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International Students in the UK: individual decision-making and negotiation of the visa application process Dr Adam Warren, Dr Elizabeth Mavroudi Department.

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Presentation on theme: "International Students in the UK: individual decision-making and negotiation of the visa application process Dr Adam Warren, Dr Elizabeth Mavroudi Department."— Presentation transcript:

1 International Students in the UK: individual decision-making and negotiation of the visa application process Dr Adam Warren, Dr Elizabeth Mavroudi Department of Geography

2 1. Context - Policy 1.Points Based System (PBS) (2008) Enable the UK to ‘keep out migrants who will not benefit the UK and actively favour those who will’ (Home Office, 2008) 5 Tiers linked to certain skills, categories and points Tier 1: High value migrants Tier 2: Skilled workers with a job offer Tier 4: People undertaking a course of study at UK educational establishment 2.Annual limit (‘cap’) on workers ( ) 20,700 for ; Conservative Party 2010 election pledge 3.‘Graduate’ visas (2012) Post study work visa closed to new applicants Graduate Entrepreneur visa opened  Relevance to non-EEA migrants 2

3 Scholarly Research 1.Politicisation of migration  ‘liberal paradox’ (Hollifield, 2004)  Govt fears of public perceptions (McLaren and Johnson, 2007)  immigration policies unable to achieve intended aims (Castles, 2004) 2.Definitions: ‘highly skilled’ and ‘skilled’ migration (Koser and Salt, 1997)  Contested  PG students ‘highly skilled’ as involved in academic mobility 3.Immigration policies overseas (Cantwell, 2011; Gribble, 2008; Hugo, 2005) 4.Role of state in assisting / impeding highly skilled mobility (Bauder, in press). Yet: less on migrant perceptions of changes to policy whilst working / studying in host country (Silvey, 2007; Hollifield, 2008) 3

4 2. Our Research  Aim: To investigate how UK labour immigration policy impacts on the highly skilled non-EEA migrants, using experiences of academic staff and PG students as case study  Methods: Semi-structured interviews; April 2010 – July 2011  Students (Masters and PhD): 36  Academic staff (Tier 1 and Tier 2): 18  Advisors (university): 8  Policymakers (Home Office / UKBA; UUK);  Migrants’ rights groups 4

5 3. Findings: motivations for studying in UK #1  Opportunity to acquire work experience – PSW visa  Historical link  Personal contacts  Economic considerations  Importance of degree from overseas – ‘educational capital’ (Waters, 2009; King et al, 2010)  Vast majority of students did not consider immigration policy when choosing the UK; academic, personal and economic factors came first. 5

6 Motivations … #2 There are many reasons why I choose the UK. It is more easy for me to study here than in America or Canada or Australia. And I also think that the UK has a very long history and I also like the culture here and the education here, the quality is good. (Masters student, China, Midlands) It’s just for a change, the experience of studying overseas and to obtain a different outlook and of course I could have achieved the same objectives in the US or Australia and so then the other factor that will affect my decision is cost and currency fluctuations and the weakening of the pound,... so if I am here it‘s because I want to have the UK experience but if they make it difficult for me, then I will not die if I don‘t have the UK experience. I can go elsewhere. (Masters student, Singapore, London) 6

7 Visa Application and Perceptions  Entering the UK The application process was incredibly confusing. And there was a lot of information that was constantly changing and a lot of, I wouldn‘t say ambiguity, but inability to find the answers that you want... My main complaint was that it was very difficult to get anyone who could explain the rules to me, whatever the current ones were. There was no one I could get on the phone. (Masters student, US, Midlands) It does create a lot of work for advisers and people handling applications. The application procedure is more complicated... I think what surprised and shocked me over the last 2 years is simply how unstructured the whole thing seems to be. Yes it was clear it was coming in but the details weren’t clear and then this little extra detail appeared but then it disappeared again and then some other rule appeared. (International student advisor, HEI, London) 7

8 Changes to policy #1 …we‘re seen as a scapegoat in that they can‘t do anything about immigration from the EU and what they can tackle is the non-EU national immigration but we have to jump through so many hoops anyway, I don‘t see why there is any need to tighten up what is already in place [...]. As people who are employed here, we have to go through so many hoops anyway, so we‘ve proved our worth [...]. We contribute so much money (PhD student, US, Midlands) 8

9 Changes to policy #2 Yes, it does cause me problems, I wish it wasn‘t like this, I wish it was freer but as long as I can‘t do anything about it, I have to try and live with it. This is the initial conditions, these are the frames that we have to live with them, otherwise you will be unhappy but as long as you can‘t change anything, there is no other way but to see how you can fit in. (PhD student, Belarus, Midlands) I have decided that I already don‘t want to stay because they seem to be making it a lot harder for people to stay, the rules are changing. What seems to me like every week they are changing. I‘ve had friends who thought they would stay, and they haven‘t, friends who have been called up and told their visa might be been taken away and it seems like a lot of hassle to go through to stay in the UK. (Masters student, Kenya, London) 9

10 Future Plans: students Varied; positions often afforded flexibility Prepared to travel to most advantageous employment environment – professional, economic, migration policy ‘…non-UK European researchers now appear to be viewing the UK as the place to establish their academic reputations and then return to their own countries (or move on elsewhere)' (UUK, 2010)  Did not perceive themselves to be migrants. Supported by UUK and international student advisors I don‘t see them as migrants, I think the vast majority of students come to the UK for an education for a UK experience, a bit of work experience and the vast majority want to go home (International Student Advisor, HEI, London) 10

11 5. Conclusions 1.Critical of reforms to UK immigration policy e.g. repeated changes, cap, closure PSW, classification students as migrants 2.Students perceive themselves to be mobile; 3.Yet, student mobility is constrained by immigration policy in dynamic and complex ways  Greater engagement with international students and academic staff as ‘active social and political agents’ (Robertson, 2010)  Impact of states on geographies of mobility of highly skilled 11

12 Next Steps  Refereed academic paper, Geoforum (resubmitted after final corrections) Liaison with policymakers and industry  APPG on Migration, House of Commons  PhD studentship Highly Skilled Immigrants and the Promotion of Entrepreneurship in the UK  Commenced: 1 December  Funded by Loughborough University and Paragon Law Ltd 12

13 References  Warren, A.P. and Mavroudi, E Surveillance and Identity Management: Migrant perspectives on UK Biometric Residence Permits, Computer Law and Security Review, 27 (3),  Warren, A.P. and Mavroudi, E Managing Surveillance? The impact of Biometric Residence Permits on UK immigrants, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 37 (9), Selected academics  Bauder, H. in press. The international mobility of academics: a labour market perspective. International Migration.  Cantwell, B Academic in-sourcing: international postdoctoral employment and new modes of academic production. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management 33 (2),  Castles, S Why migration policies fail. Ethnic and Racial Studies 27 (2), 205 – 27.  Favell, A., Smith, M.P The human face of global mobility: International highly skilled migration in Europe, North America and the Asia-Pacific. Comparative Urban and Community Research (8), Transaction Publishers, New Jersey. 13

14 References cont’d  Hollifield, J The emerging migrant state. International Migration Review 38 (3),  Hollifield, J The politics of international migration: how can we - bring the state back in? In C. Brettel, J. Hollifield (Eds.), Migration theory: Talking across disciplines. New York, Routledge, pp  Jöns, H ‘Brain circulation’ and transnational knowledge networks: studying long term effects of academic mobility to Germany Global Networks 9 (3),  Koser, K., Salt, J., The geography of highly skilled international migration. Popul., Space and Place 4 (3),  McLaren, L., Johnson, M Resources, group conflict and symbols: Explaining anti- Immigration hostility in Britain. Political Studies (55), 709–732.  Robertson, S.L., Critical response to special section: international academic mobility. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 31 (5),  Silvey, R Unequal borders: Indonesian transnational migrants at immigration control. Geopolitics, 12 (2),  Waters, J., In pursuit of scarcity: transnational students, employability and the MBA. Environment and Planning A (41),


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