UK universities must push back against Theresa May’s crackdown on international student numbers, the president of Europe’s top international university has said.
Professor Michael Ignatieff, president and rector of George Soros’s Central European University (CEU) and the former Canadian Liberal Party leader, warned the British Prime Minister must learn from political unrest taking place in Hungary and ensure the rights of students and academics are upheld post-Brexit.
In an interview with The Independent, he said tightened visa controls presented a direct threat to academic freedom, along with the “political correctness” stifling freedom of speech on modern campuses.
His comments come amid increasing pressure being placed on the British Government to remove foreign students from immigration figures and abandon plans to tighten restrictions on student visas.
Supporting the Drop the Target campaign led by The Independent and the Open Britain group to persuade the Prime Minister to scrap her goal of reducing net migration figures, the university leader said educating foreign students is “one of the greatest things that the UK does”.
“Any university has to be respectful of a sovereign state’s right to review all people coming into the country on security grounds. No university can contest that,” he said.
“The issue is when governments start to use visa scrutiny as a way of abridging the freedom of universities to recruit who they want.
“If you ask what’s a live in academic freedom right now, visa controls is one of them. We all need to be aware of that.”
Prof Ignatieff’s comments come at a time of great uncertainty for his Hungarian-based international university.
Earlier this month, tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Budapest in protest against new legislation that could force the CEU – founded by billionaire philanthropist George Soros – to close its Hungarian campus.
A bill passed in…