Educational détente in the UK toward Latin America

Educational détente in the UK toward Latin America

The United Kingdom’s attempts to charm Latin American trade relationships is hampered by its rigid visa restrictions that alienate foreign students who are key to longer-term investments and much needed short-term economic push.

In March 2013, UK MP and chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, Keith Vaz, warned party leaders to avoid a quid pro quo immigration arms race. Recommendations for caution followed Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent bitter stance on immigration citing concerns about illegal immigration including strains to benefits and the UK’s National Health System, NHS. The tough rhetoric on immigration is sending the wrong signal to not only foreigners seeking employment in the UK, but also to foreign students aspiring to study in one of the UK’s many internationally reputable institutions.

UK Business Secretary Vince Cable

Secretary Cable is in Brazil to mitigate the effects of UK immigration laws on competition for human capital

BBC reports, “there are about 300,000 students from outside the European Union enrolled at courses at UK institutions and numbers rose 6% in 2010-2011 the last year for which official figures are available.” London mayor Boris Johnson asserts that the £2.5bn in fees paid by foreign students help universities remain solvent.  However, visa policies are actively deterring foreign enrollment.

Friendly immigration policy advocates, like Mr. Vaz and Mr. Adrian Bailey, speak on India’s behalf, but what of Latin America? Latin America is experiencing previously unforeseen economic growth in contrast to Europe’s tussle with austerity measures, unemployment, and uncontrollable debt. Last year, “the economies of Latin America and the Caribbean grew by 3.1%…compared that to the Eurozone, where the economy contracted by 0.5%,” BBC affirms, which explains why Home Secretary Teresa May retracted immigration restrictions on Brazil amid concerns of illegal immigration.

Since David Cameron’s election victory, he has tried to boost trade relations with Brazil’s thriving economy, but educational reciprocity lies in the foundation of business cooperation. Many Latin Americans are educated in western institutions, and Brazilians studying in the UK will strengthen cultural swaps that will crystalize these future entrepreneurs and politicians’ appeal to English investment and long-lasting business relationships. Moreover, Brazil wants to improve and expand education, evident in its “Science Without Borders Program” that offers scholarships funded by the federal government for international studies. However, despite evidence of the damage that stringent immigration policies cause, restrictions remain.

Business Secretary Vince Cable and universities minister David Willetts have taken the lead to bolster the UK-Latin American trade relationship by targeting its essential requisite, education. Mr. Cable is currently in Brazil to compete with western counterparts, like the US, in human capital investment. While Mr. Cable is in Brazil, Mr. Willetts is doing his part in Mexico and Colombia. Flexible immigration endorsements will allow Latin Americans to feel more welcomed in the UK, and their gained trust will pay dividends.

Categories: International, Politics

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