Foreign students will no longer be required to speak English prior to obtaining a visa to come to the United Kingdom as a result of a High Court decision issued today by Justice David Foskett. The restriction, which was issued by Labour Home Secretary Alan Johnson, was overturned on technical grounds; Mr Johnson should have submitted the changes to Parliament. The case was litigated by English language schools in the United Kingdom, which estimated that the industry contributes £1.5 billion to the British economy annually.
Apart from the absurdity of requiring students of English to have learned the language prior to coming to Britain to study it, the law would have incurred damaging economic consequences that Britain will now thankfully avoid. In addition to the money that they contribute to language schools, foreign students provide badly needed revenue for British universities, which face restricted competition and dependence on government funds for the education of home students. Universities, however, are free to charge foreign students the market price for their education, allowing them to better educate British students with the resulting revenue. Furthermore, it is in Britain’s national interest to attract the world’s most intelligent and innovative students to study, and eventually work, in the United Kingdom. Having these allows them to spend money while they study (the British Council reports that international students contribute £5.6 billion to the national economy every year), and then produce value for the British economy once they graduate and find work in the country (if they are allowed to stay).
The continuation of the ban on foreign students who do not speak English would have not only denied many students entry to the country, but may have also tarnished Britain’s reputation as a welcoming destination for foreign students. This could have deterred other qualified and productive English-speaking students from choosing Britain as a destination, giving other popular destinations for international students, such as the United States and Australia, a competitive edge in attracting talented foreigners. Parliament should refrain from resurrecting the ban, which harms educational institutions, business, and the nation as a whole.