International students one of our best imports
20 December 2022
Following reports that the UK Government was considering limiting numbers of international students, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Peter Miskell expressed his support for the University's diverse international community during his speech at Winter Graduation this month. In this blog, Professor Miskell expands on his comments, describing the huge value students of all nationalities bring to our community.
Watching hundreds of students doff their caps at our Winter Graduation ceremonies last week was a reminder of how fantastic our university community is.
I’m sure all of us who were involved with Graduation felt immense pride in seeing our graduates celebrating their newly-acquired skills that will allow them to make a positive impact on society – and the fact they chose to acquire them here at Reading.
The ceremonies were also a reminder that one of the greatest things about the University of Reading and Henley Business School is the diverse international mix within our student body, and the global orientation of the programmes we deliver.
Given how proud the UK is of its higher education system being among the best in the world, it is odd that the UK Government has seemed so keen in recent weeks to reduce one of its key strengths by taking a tougher stance on international students.
"Universities are places where knowledge is valued above nationality. The global nature and composition of our universities is a precious thing. We tamper with this at our peril."
Ministers were reported to be discussing whether to prevent overseas students from bringing family members with them to the UK while they study, or from banning some from enrolling on ‘low value’ degrees at all.
While I don’t agree with the notion that certain degrees are unimportant, that is an argument for another day. What is not up for debate is the value we get from welcoming international students to our University.
Even if some politicians appear to be unappreciative of the value that international students bring to our programmes, to our campuses and to the wider community, we at Reading most certainly are not.
When I speak of ‘value’ here, I’m not simply referring to hard economic value. I’m talking about the intellectual, social and cultural richness that comes from bringing together talented people, from different backgrounds, and creating an environment where they can explore important questions, share different perspectives and spark new ideas.
This, in a nutshell, is what a university education is all about.
I love that we have 1,700 undergraduate and 1,900 PhD and Master’s students from around 160 countries outside the UK on our campuses, and more than 20 student societies celebrating the culture and history of countries around the world and enriching the Reading community. Not to mention talented staff from all over the world.
An international outlook is part of our identity at Reading. It helps us contribute to the UN’s sustainable development goals and play a role in improving and protecting lives in different continents. And, importantly, it gives us opportunities to learn from others.
I hope every single one of our international students who passed through the Great Hall this month feel proud of their achievements and, above all, feel welcome and appreciated. Reading doffs its cap to them all.
Universities are places where knowledge is valued above nationality. The global nature and composition of our universities is a precious thing. We tamper with this at our peril.
Peter Miskell is Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education & Student Experience) and Professor of International Business and Media History.