The UK’s High Potential visa program accepts postgraduate students from 37 of the world’s top universities in Australia, Canada, China, Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and the United States.
LONDON – When the United Kingdom this week launched a program offering two-year visas to postgraduate students at some of the world’s top universities, Nikhil Mani, a computer science student from India who attends New York University, hailed the news.
“I was happy,” said Mane, 23, whose university was on the list. “It’s a good way to realize our dreams.”
More than 8000 kilometers away, Adeola Adepogo, a 22-year-old biochemistry student at Olabisi Onabogo University in Nigeria, read about the announcement with keen interest. But he had the opposite reaction.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Adepogo commented. “No university is ranked in the third world.”
The UK ‘high potential’ visa program accepts postgraduate students from 37 of the world’s top universities in Australia, Canada, China, Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and the United States, even if they don’t have any job offer, go live in this country for two years .
Most of the universities on the list are located in the United States, including Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the campuses of the University of California, San Diego.
The government said the scheme would attract “the brightest and most promising people in the world” and help the British economy. However, its critics say the plan reinforces global inequality and discriminates against most developing countries.
In its call, the government stated that the aim of the policy was to create a “highly attractive and competent pool of qualified persons with the ability to transfer who could be employed by UK employers”, as well as to promote economic growth and technological progress. He did not put any limit on the number of applicants he would accept, saying that doctoral graduates can stay for three years.
“We want to build tomorrow’s business here today,” British Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said in a statement. “Come and participate!”
The program is in line with the post-Brexit visa policy, which has made entry easier for skilled workers and harder for those it considers low-skilled, as well as asylum seekers. Visa channels include skilled worker visas for people who have received a job offer in the UK, visas for people considered “leaders or potential leaders” in some regions, and a program to allow international students who have graduated from British universities to stay for at least two years.
This new British visa has been hailed in some American academic circles as something to be emulated. But many academics, students and politicians in the UK, Africa and India have spoken out against this, saying that students enroll in certain universities largely based on their social and geographic circumstances and that the new program favors already distinguished people.
“I would not be a candidate,” said Deepti Gordasani, a public health researcher and professor of machine learning at Queen Mary University of London, who attended an unlisted public university in India. “It is very painful to know that we are devalued and that people in our society have been devalued due to arbitrary levels.”
Gordasani stated that, as a student, he was awarded one of the seven places available at the Christian Medical College in Vellore, India, for which thousands of students are competing, for the purpose of studying medicine. There, she received what she considers to be very rigorous training in the care of patients with very complex illnesses, including infectious diseases, which gave her the experience that later brought her to the UK.
During the COVID pandemic“, “We’ve seen that this doesn’t exist in the UK,” he commented. “It’s very shocking to realize that then we see the emergence of the same kind of names, the same universities, that would obviously favor a certain kind of privileged white people.”
Madeleine Sumption, director of the Oxford University Migration Observatory, which monitors migration patterns, said the new policy was an innovative idea, but it had its flaws.
“How do you decide who the best-qualified people are?” he asked. , adding that the current policy would accept someone who made his way out of Harvard, but not the top students from a prestigious Indian university.
He said that it would be good to provide other criteria, such as qualifications, to assess applicants, but that applying is more difficult.. “It is very convenient for the government to have only one institution whether it is on the list or not.”
The Home Office said the list was compiled from lists ranking the world’s best universities and that new international institutions could move up the ranks and join that list later.
However, university rankings are heavily criticized in many quarters, with critics noting that they rarely recognize the quality of teaching, often giving research a much higher priority than training.
“This was not what we had in mind when we created the rankings,” Phil Baty, who is responsible for developing the Academic Ranking of World Universities methodology, which is among those used by the British government, stated in a LinkedIn post.
Zubaida Haq, executive director of the British charity Equality Trust, said that in creating this new visa, the British government failed to understand the racial, class and economic barriers that prevented many deserving students from accessing top universities.
In a 2017 study of Ivy League universities, as well as institutions such as the University of Chicago, Stanford University, MIT and Duke University, most of which are on the UK visa list, more students coming from families were found in the top 1% of the income distribution in the United States compared to the lower half.
“This program shows that the government does not understand the systemic inequality of race and class in this country, and it clearly does not understand it anywhere else,” Haq said. “It’s the elite visa program.”
Haq added that the program gave an unfair advantage to those who needed it most. “Those graduates are likely to get good opportunities anyway,” he said.
Christopher Tresos, a senior researcher with the African Climate Change and Development Initiative at the University of Cape Town, noted that the program is also detrimental to the UK.
“If the British government and business are to have any role in solving the biggest challenges of this century – access to energy, combating climate change and the pandemic – they need to include the skills and knowledge that developing countries bring to the table in development pathways,” he said.
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