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Backstage at Edwin Mohney, Central Saint Martins BA 2016
Backstage at Edwin Mohney, Central Saint Martins BA 2016Photography Lucie Rox

How cutting international students will affect fashion

Central Saint Martins pupils discuss the government’s draconian new plans to halve international student visas

It’s been a great year for the British education system. The government has increased cuts, raised tuition fees and abolished university grants, meaning that our universities are now among the most expensive in the world – it can’t be a coincidence that one in four UK students report suffering from mental health issues. Now, to put the icing on the festering turd that has been 2016, the government has announced plans to halve international student visas.

Despite the fact that overseas students contribute much to the life of our universities and £10.7 billion to the economy, home secretary Amber Rudd has promised a crackdown on numbers. In fact, the The Guardian reports that senior university sources have seen Home Office plans to reduce international student visa issues, with one option cutting the current figure of 300,000 to 170,000.

Obviously, the effect this would have on fashion schools would be huge. “Britain is at the centre of the global creative economy in part because international students are more likely to do business with us after studying here,” said Nigel Carrington, vice-chancellor at the University of the Arts London. “Cuts to international student numbers don’t just reduce income – they also reduce the ideas we generate, our research, our global networks, and the business opportunities created as a result.”

Sarah Gresty, BA fashion course leader at Central Saint Martins, one of UAL’s six colleges, said: “The cultural impact of our international community is vital to our fashion school. Anything that would jeopardise the diversity and the opportunities here for international staff and students would be hugely regressive for us as a department.”

“This is just another example of conservative politics exaggerating the threat of immigration and focusing on a sector of the immigrating population that is both legal and documented” – Edwin Mohney, MA Fashion, Central Saint Martins

With 48 per cent of its students coming from overseas, Central Saint Martins is an incredibly diverse student body – to its credit. Edwin Mohney, an American student currently enrolled on the school’s MA Fashion course, said he failed to understand the logic behind the government’s plans to cut the numbers of people allowed to study here. “I don’t see the point in staunching the flow of talented people and new ideas into the UK.”

“I’m here on a Italian passport and I’m a dual citizen of Australia and Italy,” said another student on the MA Fashion course who wished to remain anonymous. “Although I consider myself more Australian than Italian, I wouldn’t be able to study in the UK without my Italian citizenship because I would fail the financial test that is a condition of being granted a visa as an international student. I’ve also worked part-time throughout my studies to help pay my rent and material costs, which I believe I wouldn’t have been allowed to do with as much freedom under the visa rules for international students.”

Mohney continued: “I think this is just another example of conservative politics exaggerating the threat of immigration and focusing on a sector of the immigrating population that is both legal and documented. Seems like someone is cutting off their nose to spite their face, if you ask me.”