Immigration moved to the forefront of the political discussion in more than one country over the past year, increasing public attention on international students in destinations that include Britain, Canada, and Australia.
Britain, which attracts more overseas students than any country but the United States, set a largely negative tone. Its coalition government has pledged to reduce the number of immigrants, and, despite intense lobbying by universities, has chosen to include students in those figures.
The British government’s recent elimination of the so-called work entitlement for foreign students at private institutions, in a bid to eliminate abuses by universities that primarily enrolled students whose main goal was to work illegally, has had an impact on legitimate institutions as well.
Some 100 private universities that enrolled foreign students studying for two-year degrees offered in collaboration with universities or students aiming to transfer to universities have closed down in the past year, says Dominic Scott, chief executive of the UK Council for International Student Affairs. While the crackdown has eliminated bogus institutions, it has also affected many that “were quite good,” he says.
Although foreign enrollments at public universities have held relatively steady, they are unlikely to grow significantly, Mr. Scott says. And there are worries that the crackdown on private institutions will have a ripple effect, as one source of potential students has essentially been eliminated.
Here’s a familiar story from about a decade ago: a pair of political antagonists conduct an increasingly bitter election campaign, ending in frustrating indecision. Disputes pile up over the legitimacy of the balloting process, and government officials are called in to intervene. Finally, a federal panel, boasting a majority of Republican appointees, shuts down the vote-counting outright, yielding a conservative victory.
This is, of course, Bush v. Gore in outline. But the presidential election was not the only disputed vote around the turn of the millennium to get resolved in this way. Parallel events played out on the campuses of several private universities in the early 2000s. Graduate students organized themselves to win union recognition, and Republican appointees and university administrations conspired to quash the effort, ultimately preventing the counting of ballots in union elections on several campuses.
In 2000, the Clinton-appointed majority on the National Labor Relations Board, ruling on a New York University case, extended organizing protections to graduate students at private universities. (At many public institutions, graduate students had long been organized, thanks to the protection of friendly state laws.) The board stated that because “graduate assistants perform services under the control and direction of the Employer” and “are compensated for these services by the Employer,” their relationship with their university is “indistinguishable from a traditional master-servant relationship.”