Migrant Students and Learning Languages Important for UK Economy

Last week, in an interview with the Guardian, Cambridge vice-Chancellor Leszek Borysiewicz stated that ‘Britain’s increasingly hostile tone on migration risks creating a perception among students that it is not a welcoming country to study in.’ The number of students coming from India and Pakistan to study at all Universities in the UK fell by 38% between 2011 and 2012, and those from Pakistan by 62%. Borysiewicz, has also found that there is a decline in students learning languages in the UK, with applications falling from about 580 in 2010 to 380 for 2014. He warned that the decline amongst UK born nationals will have negative economic consequences.

Leszek Borysiewicz: Most Inspiring Applicants come from Children of Immigrant Parents

Leszek Borysiewicz, was born in Wales to two Polish refugees who made Britain their home after the second world war. Borysiewicz, praised Britain’s ‘plural society’, as its greatest strength but that he was against the ‘crude’ numerical limits on migrants. Borysiewicz, made it clear in the interview that Cambridge had not been affected by falling application from international students. He commented on  the increasing perception, that the UK was not welcoming, particularly in India:

“When I think of how my parents were welcomed to this country, I find that actually quite saddening. I do feel we are an open, democratic country and we should be setting the standards for the rest of the world, not hindering them. many of the most inspiring applicants come from children of immigrant parents”

Borysiewicz, also stressed the value of bilingualism among first and second generation immigrant children. Stating that teaching German was disappearing from schools in the UK. According to Borysiewicz, this is due to the British “laziness” over picking up languages, warning that the decline in learning languages in the UK could limit the educational and career chances of poorer children. At university level, applications for non-European modern language degrees fell by 37% in the three years to 2013, and European languages by 17%. Borysiewicz warned that such a decline will have negative economic consequences.

Jim Hart: International Languages Essential for UK’s Future Economic Opportunities

Parallel, to Borysiewicz speaking out on the importance of learning languages, Jim Hart spoke to the Telegraph. It seems that up to 40% of university language departments will close within a decade. The top ten languages identified as the most essential for Britain’s future economic opportunities are Spanish, Arabic, French, Mandarin Chinese, German, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, Turkish and Japanese. This has led to Jim Hart highlighting the importance of migrant workers in the UK:

“If our own resources therefore can be seen as inadequate for ambitious exporters why not take advantage of those with well-established language learning practices? If immigrants are sufficiently well-educated and qualified then they can certainly add to Britain’s ability to export and so making use of these linguistic resources would seem a very sensible option.”

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