The impact of politics on international student mobility

At the 2017 AACRAO Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, at a plenary luncheon, panelists discussed how instiutions in the United States and the United Kingdom are combating the effects of anti-immigration policies and visa restrictions on international student recruitment.

Panelists included Dr. Matthew Andrews, Secretary and Registrar, University of Gloucestershire; Peggy Blumenthal, Senior Counselor to the President, Institute of International Education (IIE); and Meredith McQuaid, Associate VP & Dean of International Programs, University of Minnesota System.

Key takeaways from the plenary included:

  • Anti-immigration policies and rhetoric are having a chilling effect on international student recruitment in the United States and the United Kingdom. Political leaders in both the U.S. and U.K. have issued executive orders and proposed policies that are making universities and society uncomfortable. In the U.S., politicians have implemented travel bans and discussed a border wall. Similarly, the Prime Minister and Home Secretary in the U.K. have promised to take back control of borders and reduce immigrants, including students.
  • Although the future of H-1B visas in the U.S. is uncertain, colleges and universities must preemptively address student concerns. It is unclear what will happen with H-1B visas. This ambiguity is problematic. American universities should be concerned, because countries like Canada, Germany, and Australia are using employment after graduation as a recruiting tool.
  • To combat immigration and visa restrictions, the higher ed sector is lobbying government officials. The Alliance—a consortium of American international educational exchange organizations—is actively lobbying in Congress. One recommended strategy is showing up at the district congressional office where a campus is located.
  • Work is ongoing to make Congress and Parliament aware of the economic and cultural value provided by international students. The University of Minnesota found that the economic impact associated with international students makes a meaningful impact on Congress members. And if the university doesn’t accept international students, classrooms will become emptier over time. Also, universities want to prepare their American students for a world in which they will work with people from different cultures. Since not everyone studies abroad, an effective way to teach U.S. students about other cultures is to have people from other countries join the community.  

More insights from this powerful panel are available in the 2017 AACRAO Annual Meeting Executive Summary, which summarizes the four keynote addresses at the conference. Visit the 2018 Annual Meeting page and download the PDF via the link in the right-hand sidebar.