Note From the Editor
Since the start of 2024, visa policy changes in the United Kingdom and Australia have raised fear and uncertainty among prospective and current international students. Critics argue that in the case of the UK specifically, its higher education sector and global standing could be negatively affected, expressing concerns about diversity and deeming the policy inhumane.
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Contrary to recent claims, the notion that the United States unfairly targets Chinese students is believed to be misleading. Chinese students remain the largest group of international students on US campuses for the 13th consecutive year. Proclamation 10043, aimed at safeguarding national security, subjects a small number of post-graduate students to scrutiny. Critics argue that there’s potential discouragement of applications and economic costs, but it hasn’t significantly reduced the number of Chinese students in the US. Concerns also persist when it comes to a potential chilling effect, with candidates exploring alternatives in European universities or emerging options in Qatar and China.
Nearly 40% of student visa applications from India to Canadian institutions have been rejected, the highest among all countries, per recent analysis. Concerns about the integrity of Canada’s international student system persist, with critics comparing it to a “puppy mill.” Visa data from January 2022 to April 2023 show varying approval rates, especially with public colleges experiencing higher rejections. Immigration Minister Marc Miller has cited the need for provinces to ensure credibility as the program faces aggressive recruitment and concerns about unregulated agents.
The UK Home Office has raised the family visa income requirement to £29,000 (US$36,708) from £18,600 (US$23,537), effective Spring 2024, sparking debate due to it surpassing the average UK salary. The government also plans a staged increase to £38,700 (US$48,986) in 2025. Among the immigration reforms is raising the skilled worker visa minimum earnings. While the family migration policies are designed to safeguard current visa holders and applicants from the imminent changes, individuals switching to the five-year partner route after the hike will face the new income standards. According to critics, it could negatively impact the UK’s higher education sector and global standing, expressing concerns about diversity and deeming the policy inhumane.
France now requires a deposit from non-European Union student visa applicants to cover potential expenses during their stay, with the specific amount yet to be specified. The deposit is refundable under conditions such as planned departure or permit renewal, but non-compliance results in forfeiture. Students have expressed concerns about the ambiguous amount, posing unexpected financial hurdles. The French government has also introduced an annual proof of enrollment obligation for long-term permit holders.
Australian international students are dissatisfied with a recent visa rule change that lowers the age limit for post-graduation work visas from 50 to 35. Insiders point out that it disproportionately impacts women and those pursuing master’s degrees. The new rule affects around 23,500 international PhD students crucial for the skilled labor market, hindering a pathway to permanent migration for those over 35 who no longer qualify for a 485 temporary graduate work visa. In October 2023, Australia hit a record of almost 673,000 active student visas, with 1 in 30 people holding a student or post-study work rights visa.
Delays in processing international student visas in New Zealand are severely affecting flight training schools, leading to a substantial decline in enrollment. Before the pandemic, over 650 international students annually contributed more than NZ$200 million (US$124.85 million) to the economy. However, in 2023, enrollments have sharply dropped to less than 100. Simon Wallace, CEO of Aviation New Zealand, has pointed out that the 30 to 60 working days for visa processing, compared to Australia’s 16 days, is diverting students to more efficiently processing competitors. The immigration ministry, however, says they are looking at ways to prioritize the urgent visa applications for overseas students.
Canada has implemented reforms for international students, including verifying acceptance letters and increasing the funding requirement to CA$20,635 (US$15,171) from January 1. However, concerns persist among applicants, particularly those with family already in Canada, as the country’s stance remains unclear. Tensions between Canada and India, along with increased financial requirements, have also led to a 40% decline in student applications since July 2023, potentially impacting Canada’s attractiveness as a study destination.
The UK’s Turing scheme, replacing the EU’s Erasmus+, faced challenges in its first year, with 80% of universities reporting application difficulties. Participation fell short due to COVID-19, and delays in confirming placements and funding disproportionately affected students with fewer resources. Higher education providers expressed dissatisfaction, raising questions about the Turing scheme’s effectiveness compared to Erasmus+. Among the government’s key claims for the Turing scheme was that it would let more students from lower-income backgrounds – such as schools and university, vocational training, and further education – take up international study placements, compared with the Erasmus intake, and act as more global rather than being confined to Europe.
Poland Minister of Science and Higher Education Dariusz Wieczorek has proposed allocating 150 million zloty (US$37.6 million) to upgrade university student residences, aiming to revitalize dormitories with 30% underutilized capacity. The funds will be distributed among 87 universities based on dormitory spaces, with a maximum limit of 4 million zlotys (US$1 million) per institution, without affecting existing subsidies. Despite having 1.2 million students, Poland’s dormitory capacity is below 10%, falling short of the European average, with monthly accommodation rates ranging from €60 (US$66) to €150 (US$164). The count of international students at Polish universities has surpassed 100,000 for the first time, reaching 102,200 during the 2022-23 academic year, constituting approximately 9% of the total student population in Poland.
Portugal has introduced a salary bonus for both Portuguese and foreign residents completing bachelor’s and master’s degrees. The policy, announced by Prime Minister Antonio Costa, offers an annual bonus of €697 (US$762) for each year of a bachelor’s degree and €1,500 (US$1,640) for each year of a master’s degree. The initiative, targeting individuals under 35 in Category A and B, extends to graduates before 2023. Approved on Nov. 29, 2023, the policy aligns with Portugal’s efforts to attract international students, reflected in a record-high enrollment of 446,028 students during the 2022-23 academic year.
Punjabi international students at Algoma University in Brampton, Canada, are in an indefinite sit-in protest, alleging an IT professor intentionally failed 130 students to boost re-exam fees. They demand a transparent grading system, oppose extra exam fees, and seek justice from Canadian parliament members. The university has already initiated an investigation, assuring fair assessments. A student organization and social activists have extended support to the students, citing that similar issues exist in other Ontario colleges and viewing it as a ploy to exploit international students financially.
The South Korean government is expanding global Korean language education to attract more foreign students to domestic universities. The initiative is part of the “Study Korea 300K Project,” which aims to increase the current 170,000 foreign students to 300,000 by 2027. Specific regions will participate in a pilot program promoting Korean language education worldwide. The government is addressing declining domestic enrollments by fostering international exchanges, providing each education office with a 10.4 billion won (US$7.9 million) grant.
Shoreline Community College, situated on the ancestral lands of the Coast Salish Peoples, particularly the Duwamish Tribe, was founded in 1964. Offering over 100 academic and professional/technical degrees and certificates, the college caters to the lifelong learning needs of its diverse student body of more than 8,000 individuals from the United States and over 50 countries. The institution has a vision of being recognized for inclusive excellence in teaching and learning, student success, and community engagement, guided by values of respect, inclusion, and student engagement.
St. Thomas University’s Gerontology is one of two standalone programs in Atlantic Canada, offering a multidisciplinary approach with courses from Psychology, Sociology, Women’s Studies, and Gender Studies. Students gain a comprehensive understanding of aging and human development, leading to self-fulfillment from diverse perspectives. The program provides options like a Bachelor of Arts with a major or minor in Gerontology, a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Gerontology (in partnership with NBCC), or a Certificate in Gerontology. Students benefit from faculty expertise in mental health, aging, death, nursing homes, dementia, counseling for older adults, and narrative gerontology. Graduates will also acquire skills in critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication, preparing them for careers in Social Work, Counseling, Recreational or Occupational Therapy, Long-term Care, Community Agencies, Entrepreneurship, and Public Policy, empowering them to challenge ageism in society.
MSM Reporter is collated by a globally spread team of MSM and is published every Thursday.