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Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more

Eduwidgets: A British Success Story

Monday, May 14, 2012

There is much talk about our need to improve the UK's trade deficit by exporting our products overseas. And there is one market which has in recent years been a major but hidden success story, something for government to celebrate. So why is the government determined to destroy this best of British product?

The market is in that little known product, the Eduwidget. There are around 300 factories creating Eduwidgets in the UK. Having been a pioneer in the manufacture of Eduwidgets since the sixteenth century, these factories are world-renowned for their ability to craft their high quality products. Overseas countries send the raw materials for around  400, 000 basic widgets to the UK every year. These countries pay a high price for the privilege of using UK factories to turn their basic widgets into the premium Eduwidgets, the majority of which (85%) are then sent back overseas. In total, the market in Eduwidgets adds around £360 million a year to GDP.

What's not to like? The numbers look good. The brand clearly sells. Surely the UK government should be celebrating this significant contribution to our trade deficit.

Now substitute the word "university" for "factory," and "international student" for "Eduwidget." No, substitute "immigrant" instead - for under the pressure of right-wing hysteria over this semantic label, rational financial logic starts to fall apart.

As has been revealed by a new report from the Institute of Public Policy Research, the government has had an ulterior motive in labelling international students as immigrants in the official figures. The recent crisis in border controls has shown that curbing illegal immigration is difficult and costly. The government will struggle to meet its target of reducing immigration to below 100 000 from its current level of 240 000 by the time of the next election. However, it is very easy to tighten the taps on the international higher education marketplace. If international students are treated as "immigrants," then by cutting the number of student visas, immigration can be made magically to reduce also. This may choke the supply of raw materials to our factories - sorry, universities - but it's a price worth paying to avoid the wrath of the tabloids.

Statistically, however, only 15% of students will remain in the UK and become long-term immigrants. The vast majority come as students and leave with their prestigious degrees. They are part of the temporary ebb and flow of global trade, just like containers entering and leaving our ports. So let's have some common sense on this issue. Strip away the rhetoric of immigration, and the loaded labelling. Treat our universities like factories, our students like widgets, and celebrate it as an export industry much like any other - a best of British success story.

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Posted by Alistair at 5:02 pm


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