Education is a matter of national security – so why kick out foreign students?
Knowledge is power, or so the expression goes. The problem is, power does not always mean knowledge.
In fact at times high office seems to inhibit common sense.
Today’s bombshell, dropped by Sajid Javid, is a case in point, with the recently re-elected Business Secretary announcing that he wants foreign students out of the country as soon as their studies finish, rather than letting them stay and work in the UK.
Speaking on the Today Programme, he said: “What we need to make sure is that our immigration system allows those from abroad that want to come to Britain to study in our world-class universities, our fantastic colleges to come here”.
“But we’ve also got to have a system that doesn’t allow any abuse when people are using the right to study as a way to achieve settlement in Britain. So we’ve got to break the link and make sure it’s focused on people who want to study and then, once they’ve had their studies and completed that, then they leave.”
Stop and consider this. The UK Government wants to take in foreigners, educate them to a high level, and then send them away the very moment they become most employable.
It doesn’t make sense – in fact it is incongruous with the wider Tory narrative. Javid’s is a party seemingly obsessed with whipping the UK into shape, so it can compete in the global economy. Its whole discourse revolves around the idea.
The Tories talk about national advantage and yet everything about the idea of throwing out foreign students, after educating them, seems counter to that.
Recent weeks have seen David Cameron make a concerted effort to tie the economy to defence, in an attempt to frame deficit reduction as a national security issue.
Asked about the UK’s declining defence budget in PMQs this week, Cameron said: “The only way to have strong defence is to have a strong economy. That is absolutely key.”
That seems fair. Put in its crudest form the argument runs that, without money, you can’t buy guns.
But here is the kicker – education is no different, and nor is energy or health for that matter.
A state without an educated population will see its economy suffer. In this sense, education too is a national security issue.
And, worse than refusing entry to clever people – which would just be a tremendous waste of a resource – the Government is actually going further. It plans to let clever people come to the UK, educate them so they know more, and then send them away to work in states it views as competitors.
If knowledge is power, this policy appears to be based in pouring national interest down the drain.