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Benefits and challenges of immigration in higher education.

By Zak Thomas, NUS journalist

My initial thoughts on sitting down to write about immigration and education, was that it was too broad and complex to analyse in less than 1000 words. So rather than bombard you with statistics, counter statistics, analysis and counter analysis, I thought I would give you a summary of my personal experience with immigration whilst studying in the UK, the challenges that it brings and the benefits.

I cannot speak for all, but unfortunately there is still a relative amount of segregation at UK universities. This is neither forced or an intrinsic racism, more the case of students arriving in a new location and quickly trying to find people they can relate to.

We naturally lean towards people we have shared experiences with, so it is no surprise that on Fresher’s week we tend to connect best with people that remind us of own situation.

I confess, I am guilty of this too, arriving at my new university as a mature student and striking up a friendship with another student who looked the same age on the first day, and we bonded over concerns of feeling too old.

Despite this, the benefits of studying in an international community are clear for all to see. Small barriers begin to break down as university life progresses and you can start to learn from the diverse experience that an international student body brings.

In an increasingly globalised world, we not only rely on each other for trade and finance, but issues such as global warming and poverty seemingly need a greater level of communication if we are to overcome them.

With University providing an intense environment, in which the worlds international community are brought together, it is difficult to argue against the fact that higher education can provide us with a base in which to build the future networks of the world.

The open forum of academia also seems like an ideal place to debate issues of the future without prejudice, where minds from all over the world can debate issues of policy, ethics and morality under the guidance of leading experts in their fields. Perhaps finding some common ground as well as learning off the varied experiences that different cultural backgrounds bring.

This is the dream of course, this may not always be the case, but on a personal level, I have certainly found that having an international community at university has helped me to challenge any misconceptions I may have had, gain a wider understanding of different cultures and learn new ways of tackling problems from our combined experience.

Essentially, it is the kind of barriers that form from fresher’s week segregation that need to be broken down, if we are to create a more connected international community and deal with the increasing challenges that have come about by centuries of globalisation. Local problems have become global and I cannot think of a better place to start building ideas and networks for the future, than the pioneering and open environment that a university education should bring.