Foreign student? Considering a move to London? Looking forward to life in one of the world's great cities, where you can meet people from all over the planet, visit our museums and galleries, eat in our restaurants, experience our nightlife?
Well we don't want you. Go away.
That, at least, is the message our beloved government seems intent on sending. For the last couple of years, one of the Home Office's key attempts to suck up to the Daily Mail policies has been to slash annual immigration rates – from hundreds of thousands, to a mere tens of thousands.
That, though, isn’t easy to do. A lot of the incomers are EU citizens, who have a legal right to be here. A lot of the rest aren't easy to keep track of.
Our leaders, though, have found one group that is remarkably easy to keep track of, and thus to block: foreign students. We know who they are, we know where they live, and we know how to get rid of them. So, despite the facts that:
a) students aren’t immigrants in the traditional sense;
b) they spend an enormous amount of money in the local economy; and
c) education is one of our biggest export industries
...the government seems intent on bringing down the shutters.
In theory, the clampdown has been targeted at ‘bogus colleges’: places that don’t provide teaching at all, just give economic migrants a convenient cover for entering the country. In practice, though, seemingly everyone in the education world thinks it’s hitting genuine students too. Language colleges have been particularly badly hit.
The most recent casualty of this clampdown is the Point Blank Music School (whose alumni include Leona Lewis and Goldie, fact fans). Last night, the BBC reported that the UK Border Agency, which has responsibility for enforcing all this, has revoked the college's licence to sponsor international students. There’ll now be the inevitable to-ing and fro-ing over how much the college itself is to blame – but the upshot is that it can no longer recruit internationally, and its current crop of overseas students will likely have until the end of April before they're forced to leave the country.
And this isn't the first time it's happened – remember London Met?
It'd be unfair to blame all this on the entirely on the current government. The rather silly system, in which education institutions are forced to double as immigration authorities, was established by Labour. What's more, several coalition ministers are known to have campaigned against this shameless and self-defeating attempt to suck up to the tabloids, not least on economic grounds.
But this policy is – there’s no other word for it – stupid. It sucks money out of the economy. It sends the message that this city, and its education system, is closed for business. It leaves the people who will run the world of the future with a terrible impression of Britain and its people. And all that's without even getting into questions about whether or not cutting immigration is actually a laudable goal in the first place.
Worse than any of that, though, it's unfair. Genuine, legitimate students, who came here to experience this city and to learn, are being told to leave because of someone else's administrative screw up. What possible benefit could that have for anyone?
Image courtesy of Trodel, under a creative commons licence