Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Foreign students are 'damaging' economy

I've had spit-out-the-cornflakes moments with my Metro before, but seeing this headline in my paper yesterday was certainly another. The story related to a 'study' by the think tank Civitas which found (surprise!) that there are many Overseas students in engineering and related disciplines, that (apart from those which are average or below average) engineering and related disciplines have above-average starting salaries, and overseas students are more likely to leave the UK after they graduate than the British, therefore 'damaging' the British economy by taking heir skills elsewhere.

It is surprising how often you find people speaking and writing as if there was a fixed supply of university 'places', and 'places' filled by overseas students were being denied to British applicants. That may be true of specific courses at specific institutions in any one year, but at a sector level it is self-evidently nonsense, or we wouldn't have these continuous ructions about closing departments. But Civitas take a pride in their brand of pointless contrarianism, and by their standards this was really a pretty mild bit of nonsense.

What I did find quite interesting about this piece was my own reaction to it. I actually spent some time thinking whether the Civitas report merited a response. It seems to have gained very little press exposure - I can't even find that Metro put it into the web edition, but if I have concerns that a mention on my tiny weblog is going to give undue prominence to a think tank - even one as flaky as Civitas - I think it is fair to say I am having delusions of grandeur. Does anyone know a cure for those which doesn't involve invading Russia?

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