The BBC reported late last month that there are 7 per cent fewer UK undergraduates at Oxford and 5 per cent fewer at Cambridge this year, compared with 2007-08. It was also reported that the number of International students attending Russell Group universities drastically increased in the same period, with about a 51 per cent increase for the former and a 65 per cent increase for the latter.
Many have accused the universities, as well as others around the country, of favouring international students as part of “money-grabbing schemes”. Spokespersons for the universities dispute this claim, stating that overseas student intake had not been influenced by “the fees they may bring with them.” Regardless, many are putting pressure on universities and demanding an equal playing field, especially for disadvantaged UK students. This begs the question whether the rise in international students is unjust?
Whilst it would be easy to put on our tinfoil hats and call the universities “capitalist institutions that we must seek to destroy when the revolution comes.” However, being an international student myself, I disagree. Mathematically speaking, the result was more or less an inevitability. A spokesman from the University of Cambridge reported that applications from overseas students for undergraduate courses have “increased by 56 per cent” over the last 10 years. This means that UK students are not only competing with themselves, but a pool of hundreds of thousands of students from all sorts of backgrounds. It would be fair to suggest that these universities would prefer international students over domestic students if the standards expected for an offer for the former were lower, however, when applying either directly or via UCAS, one can see that it is the same pre-requisites that are required by all students, regardless of the cost of their education.
Despite that, patriots, critics may say that British universities “owe it to their country” to take in fewer international students and more from the UK. This argument is harder to rebut, as it is right or wrong depending on your values and perspectives on life rather than mathematical statistics. Here, I bring in the case of globalism. In the “age of information,” where we are connected to every inch of our planet via the internet, it does not make any logical sense to start looking inwards. To argue for favorability for a particular group rather than equality for all will only result in losses for our global society. History has shown us that we’ve grown as a civilisation. So no, universities do not “owe it” to their country to discriminate, but rather owe it to our community to encourage its development.
The last reason many have for opposition to this trend is based on the argument that universities are money-making machines. Admittedly this claim is somewhat grounded. It is true that having more international students means more revenue for the university since they pay up to four-times as much as British students. There is no doubt that, whilst the higher fees may not ultimately determine whether an application is successful, the advantages this can bring to institutions cannot be overlooked. However, one must then ask who exactly must be blamed for this scenario. After all, universities are mostly privately funded, with reports from 2015 showing that only about 26 per cent of all university income came from the government, with about 52 per cent dependent on tuition fees. So, should we be putting pressure on universities to reconsider their intake of international students, or should we be putting pressure on the government to increase university funding?
In order to mitigate against these concerns, universities should charge all students equally, thus removing any potential prejudice that universities may have towards certain students due to the potential income they would bring to the university.
Image: Lil Foot via Pixabay