UK Arts, Education Impacted by Immigration Growth


Britain stands to lose a generation of talent if the next government does not allow students from abroad more leeway to stay in the UK after finishing their degrees, or so say leaders in the world of arts and fashion.

Richard Adams, writing for The Guardian, says that a letter written by a group of artists and writers including Sir John Hurt are concerned that those who might contribute the most to Britain’s art community are being penalized by current immigration rules. Currently the laws make it difficult for those who are freelancers or are involved in unstructured work to qualify for visas.

The signatures on the letter include artists who also hold leadership positions at British universities such as Sanjeev Bhasker, actor and chancellor of Sussex University, along with Bonnie Greer, author, critic, and chancellor of Kingston University in London.

“Some of the most acclaimed individuals from the arts – spanning film, fashion, fine art, design, drama, dance and music – have studied in the UK. Not only that, but we have allowed them to stay on and work after their studies, enriching the cultural life of the UK. However, this is at risk as a result of the UK government’s approach to immigration,” the letter says.

Students who wish to stay in the UK need to work for a single employer and earn at least £20,800. In the arts, entry-level positions offer lower salaries and young actors, artists, and musicians are freelancers who hold several or short-term jobs.

There is also a fear that the current policy will damage the ability of British universities to attract overseas students and staff, according to Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, which lobbies on behalf of higher education. Through the years, she adds, many leading figures in the arts have returned to their home countries and served as ambassadors for the UK, or have stayed in Britain and contributed to the country’s cultural life. The Labour party has stated that it would bring back a work-study visa, and the Liberal Democrats say they will remove students from immigration statistics.

Meanwhile, in an interview hosted by Tim Ross of The Telegraph, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan shared her thoughts on the immigration issue. She is concerned with the widespread impact of mass immigration on state schools. The Telegraph reports that Conservatives have not brought annual net migration down to the “tens of thousands” as they had predicted they would. Now, Morgan wants to know how immigrant children are performing academically; how schools with large immigrant numbers cope; and how institutions and different regions of the country compare in the area of immigrant education.

The major review ordered by Morgan will also investigate solutions to the problem of a shortage of openings in state schools, with an estimated extra 400,000 student spaces needed by 2023 because of immigration growth. Existing schools will need help with expansion in order to accommodate more students.

In an article from the Daily Mail by Matt Chorley, Morgan includes another issue to be investigated by officials in the Department for Education – the impact of migrant children arriving in British schools unable to speak English.

“It would be wrong to say immigration holds results back or affects overall qualifications ultimately. But at the start of primary school, especially, it means that teachers have to tailor their lessons, to spend longer with pupils who have English as a second language,” said Morgan.

Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw responded to the “English as a second language” problem by saying that schools need the resources to deal with that. Labour leader and candidate for prime minister Ed Miliband stated that everyone who comes to Britain should know how to speak English. He also states that a shared society can only be built if everyone speaks the same language.