LONDON – When Britain launched a program this week that offered a two-year visa for graduates of some of the world’s leading universities, Nikhil Mane, an Indian computer science student at New York University, welcomed the news.
“I was happy,” said 23-year-old Mr Manet, whose university was on the list. “It’s a good way to make our dreams come true.”
More than 5,000 miles from here, 22-year-old Adeola Adepoju, a biochemistry student at the University of Olabisi Onabanja in Nigeria, also read the ad with great interest. But he had the opposite reaction.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Mr. Adepo said. “No third world university is evaluated.”
The British visa program “Individual with High Potential” allows graduates to 37 higher world universities in Australia, Canada, China, Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and the US come to the country for two years, even if they have no job offer.
Most of the universities on the list are in the United States, including Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California at San Diego.
The government has said the plan will attract the “brightest and best” in the world and benefit the British economy. Critics, however, say the plan fosters global inequality and discriminates against most developing countries.
The aim of the policy is to create “a highly desirable and capable pool of mobile talent from which UK employers can recruit” and to stimulate economic growth and technological progress, the government said in a statement. ad. It did not limit the number of entrants to be accepted, and stated that graduates with PhDs would be allowed to stay for three years.
“We want tomorrow’s businesses to be built here today,” British Finance Chancellor Rishi Sunak said in a statement. “Come and join!”
The program is in line with Britain’s post-Brexit visa policy, which has made entry easier for highly skilled workers and more difficult for those considered low-skilled, as well as asylum seekers. Visa routes include a skilled worker visa for people who have been offered a job in the UK, a visa for people who are considered “leaders or potential leaders” in certain areas, and a program that allows international students who have graduated from British universities to stay to a minimum two years.
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A New York University student, Mr. Maine, said that after he completed his master’s degree, he would be allowed to stay in the United States for three years. After that, his prospects of getting another visa are uncertain.
The opportunity to travel to Britain “opens up more options,” he said.
Some appreciated the new British visa scientific circles in the United States as a person to be imitated. But many scholars, students and politicians in the UK, and Africa India spoke out against this, saying that the universities attended by students are heavily influenced by their social and geographical circumstances, and that the new scheme rewards those who already have more privileged positions.
“I have no right,” said Dipty Gourdosani, a clinical epidemiologist and senior lecturer in machine learning at Queen Mary University of London, who has entered an unlisted university in India. “It’s very insulting to find out that you are devalued and that people in your community are devalued because of arbitrary thresholds.”
Dr Gourdosani said that as a student, she won one of seven places to study medicine at the Christian Medical College in Velor, India, for which thousands of students competed. There she underwent, she said, rigorous training, observing patients with very complex diseases, including infectious diseases, and construction skills, which she later brought to Britain.
“We saw the absence of this in the UK during the Covid pandemic” she said. “It’s very, very shocking to see that after that we see the same names, the same universities that obviously will prefer a certain kind of privileged white people.”
Madeleine Samption, director of the Oxford University Migration Observatory, which monitors immigration models, said the new policy was a groundbreaking idea, but with flaws.
“How do you define who these highly skilled people are?” She asked, adding that current policy allows for someone who has just graduated from Harvard but not the most successful students at an Indian higher university.
Introducing other criteria for evaluating applicants, such as grades, would be fair, she said, but much harder to meet. “It is very convenient for the authorities to have the institution on the list or not».
The UK Home Office said the list was compiled from the world’s leading ranking lists of universities, and that new international institutions could climb up and later join the list.
However, the ratings of the university are there widely criticized in many circles, and critics say they often do not understand the quality of teaching and often pass on research over learning.
Phil Betty, who is responsible for developing a methodology for the global ranking of universities Times Higher Education, which is among those used by the British government, said in message in LinkedIn that “that’s not what we meant when creating the rankings.”
Zubaida Hake, executive director of the British charity Equality Trust, said that by offering a new visa, the British government did not realize that racial, class and financial barriers prevent many deserving students from entering the best universities.
A 2017 study Ivy League colleges, as well as institutions such as the University of Chicago, Stanford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Duke, most of which are on the UK visa list, showed that more students from families are in the top 1 per cent of the income distribution in the United States States than the lower half.
“This scheme shows that the government does not understand systemic racial and class inequality in this country and clearly does not understand it anywhere else,” Ms Hake said. “This is an elite visa scheme.”
She added that the program gives an unfair advantage to those who need it the least. “Either way, there will probably be a good channel for these graduates,” she said.
Christopher Trisas, a senior fellow at the African Climate and Development Initiative at the University of Cape Town, said the program also harms Britain itself.
“If businesses and governments in the UK want to play a role in tackling the biggest challenges of this century – access to energy, tackling climate change and pandemics – they need to incorporate skills and knowledge from developing countries,” he said.
A student from Nigeria Adepoju said he hopes to become a researcher in molecular oncology.
“I may not get a degree from the top 50 universities, but I have high potential and I want to achieve great things,” he said. But he added: “It’s their loss, not mine.”
Elian Peltier contributed to reports from Dakar, Senegal.