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Source: (22) Should Education be Risky? Protecting Vulnerable Students in the UK | LinkedIn

In the pursuit of knowledge and personal development, education stands as a beacon of hope for individuals seeking to better their lives. However, in recent times, the landscape of education has become fraught with risks, particularly for vulnerable students, including international students in the UK. As we delve into the intersection of human rights, public law, and the protection of these students, it becomes imperative to question: Should education truly be risky?

The Perils Faced by International Students

Recent press articles have shed light on the myriad challenges faced by international students in the UK. From uncertain visa statuses to discriminatory practices and inadequate support systems, these students navigate a complex web of obstacles in pursuit of their education. One such challenge emerged from revelations about universities selling courses to students, leaving them trapped in spiralling debt, unemployed, and with limited life chances

The government has acknowledged the detrimental impact of such practices on students’ futures and has implemented crackdowns on universities. However, while domestic students are receiving attention and support in rectifying these issues, international students remain neglected. The government’s reluctance to address the plight of international students stems from a desire to maintain a tough stance on immigration, despite the evident harm caused by these policies.

Additionally, former government ministers have admitted that universities were privately lobbying the government to remove a key part of education from courses, which was subsequently used by Theresa May to target international students. The coalition government resisted the lobbying by universities, revealing several failures by May and the Home Office in this case.

May’s administration perpetuated a narrative of suspicion and mistrust towards international students, accusing them of visa fraud and abuse. This narrative fuelled a series of stringent immigration laws aimed at cracking down on alleged wrongdoing, resulting in the expulsion of numerous students from the country. However, the veracity of these claims has since come under scrutiny, revealing a stark disparity between the rhetoric espoused by May’s government and the reality experienced by international students

A critical examination of the data and statistics used to justify these measures has exposed the fallacy of May’s assertions. It has become evident that the scale of visa fraud and abuse among international students was grossly exaggerated, if not entirely fabricated Such revelations not only undermine the credibility of May’s government but also highlight the grave injustice inflicted upon innocent students who were unfairly targeted and penalized.

The Role of Human Rights and Public Law

In the face of such challenges, human rights and public law play a crucial role in safeguarding the rights and dignity of vulnerable students. The principles enshrined in international human rights instruments, as well as domestic legislation, serve as a shield against discrimination, exploitation, and injustice. Moreover, public law acts as a mechanism for holding institutions and authorities accountable for their actions or inactions that may jeopardize the well-being of students.

The Duty of Educational Institutions

Educational institutions, as bastions of knowledge and enlightenment, bear a fundamental duty to ensure the safety and welfare of all students under their care. This duty extends beyond merely providing academic instruction; it encompasses fostering an inclusive and supportive environment that nurtures the holistic development of students. Furthermore, institutions must uphold principles of equality and non-discrimination in all facets of their operations.

The Role of Legal Advocacy

In advocating for the rights of vulnerable students, legal professionals have a pivotal role to play. Law firms specializing in human rights, public law, and immigration, possess the expertise and commitment needed to navigate the intricate legal landscape surrounding education rights. Through strategic litigation, advocacy, and policy engagement, these firms can effectuate meaningful change and hold institutions accountable for their obligations to students.

Embracing Sustainable Development Goal 4

As we address the challenges faced by international students in the UK, it is crucial to situate our efforts within the broader global context of accelerating progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) – Quality Education. By ensuring access to quality education for all, irrespective of nationality or background, we not only uphold fundamental human rights but also contribute to building a more equitable and sustainable society. Democratic access to education by 2030 is not merely an aspiration but a moral imperative that requires collective action and unwavering commitment from governments, institutions, and civil society.

Professor Olga Mroz, Dame of Honour, aptly summarizes the essence of education, stating, “Education itself shouldn’t be risky, but the pursuit of education may involve taking risks.” In the process of learning, individuals often encounter challenges, uncertainties, and opportunities for growth. This might involve stepping out of one’s comfort zone, trying new approaches, or exploring unfamiliar territory. However, these should only be risks that are typically manageable and serve as valuable learning experiences. Overall, education should be a safe and supportive environment”.

In conclusion, the question of whether education should be risky demands our urgent attention. The plight of vulnerable students, including international students in the UK, underscores the pressing need for concerted action to protect their rights and well-being. By upholding principles of human rights, public law, and sustainable development, and through the diligent advocacy of legal professionals, we can strive towards a future where education is truly a pathway to empowerment and opportunity for all.

As we embark on this journey, let us heed the call to action and work tirelessly to ensure that education remains a beacon of hope, rather than a source of risk, for generations to come.