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UK immigration restrictions could inadvertently damage future skills in maths and science, areas highly prized by employers, a government select committee has warned.A “triple whammy” of higher university fees, a lack of student finance and a drop in overseas students has “weakened” the quality of courses, the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee said.This situation if left unchecked would affect the number of workers with higher level skills in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths) and undermine future economic growth.The potential problem is due, in part, to the recent tightening of immigration rules, the committee said. It has created the perception that international students are “not welcome” which in turn is starving educational institutions of the funding these students bring to the UK.The committee has urged the government to take “immediate action” to distinguish between university students and other immigrants in official statistics. This would mean people studying would not count towards net immigration, allowing the government to reconcile its conflicting policies to reduce immigration and expand higher education to promote economic growth.The committee was also “shocked” by the number of A-Level maths students starting STEM degrees but who lacked the numeracy skills to undertake their studies. It recommended that maths be made compulsory for all students post-16 and called on universities to “toughen up” their maths entry requirements for STEM courses.A further recommendation included the creation of a body to provide real time data analysis and a commentary of where STEM shortages exist. In response to this information, remedial action could be put in place and students would be told whether the courses they are considering would give them the skills required by employers.Lord Willis, chairman of the Lords Sub-Committee on Higher Education in STEM Subjects, said: "It is crucial that students entering university to study STEM subjects have the appropriate levels of math skills to begin their courses. We were surprised to hear that many undergraduates have to be given remedial maths lessons when they start university. The government should now make it compulsory for every pupil to study maths beyond 16. This will not only help STEM students but ensure a level of numeracy for everyone that will be increasingly required by employers in the future.“We also worried that the tightening of immigration controls send out a message that the UK doesn’t welcome international students. Combined with the increases in tuition fees, this risks damaging universities funding base and limiting their ability to offer higher quality STEM courses. The government must take steps to ensure international students are not put off studying here."
Immigration tightening is going to have a very negative impact because students who complete a degree in the UK are not able to be sponsored and get work experience immediately. They have to wait their official results to come up, which usually takes 2-3 months after they complete their degree. The end result is that they have 1 month to go through interviews (before their student visa expires), to find a sponsor and apply for the visa, which is unreasonable. Even the 'brightest and the best' aren't able to get work experience in the UK this way. For those who don't know yet, only 3% of higher education students end up settling in the UK, most of them want to get some experience here only. This is so unfair and dangerous to UK economy.
The Tier 4 overseas student visa has long been one of the most abused methods of entry into the UK. Provision is therefore any highly skilled student with skills that cannot be found from the indigenous workforce to enter the UK legally. I would imagine that this issue may have been promted by potential students that have been found very wanting in the basic skills to completed a high level course, and have been justifiably refused a visa to enter the UK.
If maths at post-16 study is not proving effective for required degree studies why not introduce tests for these courses or increase the need for further mathematics A-Level qualification? Whilst post-16 study stands as optional introducing requirements may deter some from futher education.