BY JAMES BOXELL
FOREIGN students seeking to enter the United Kingdom from countries such as Pakistan, India, China and Nigeria would be singled out for extra scrutiny by border officials under the new immigration regulations outlined by the Tories.
Responding to evidence of widespread abuse of the student visa system, Chris Grayling, shadow home secretary, said incoming Conservative government would also ask many overseas students to pay cash deposits worth thousands of pounds, to be returned only when they are leaving the country.
But Mr Grayling, who described the present student regime as a “huge loophole in our border controls”, has decided not to pursue stricter measures such as shutting the door to courses below degree level or demanding higher standards of English language among applicants.
Universities, further education colleges and English language schools have been lobbying politicians not to go too far in blocking overseas students because it would threaten a vital part of their fee-raising capacity, just as they face deep budget cuts. Some estimates suggest international students bring £8.5bn to the UK economy each year.
“International students do not come automatically to the UK,” said Catherine Marston of Universities UK, a representative body. “Our universities work hard to attract them, so, it’s vital we send out the message that we welcome them.”
THE problems with student visas have risen to the top of the Westminster agenda after a Nigerian man allegedly attempted to blow up a passenger jet headed for Detroit on Christmas Day. The 23-year-old suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, studied mechanical engineering at University College London between 2005 and 2008.
Border officials stressed that Abdulmutallab was a bonafide applicant from a prominent Nigerian family. A subsequent attempt to return to the UK was rejected after he applied for a course at a bogus college. Nevertheless, opposition politicians argue that large-scale abuse of the student visa system is a risk to national security.
About 240,000 such visas were granted last year, up from 70,000, 10 years ago. Much of this can be attributed to a drive by Mr Brown and Tony Blair, his predecessor, to establish Britain as a global leader in higher education. However, Phil Woolas, the borders minister, admitted that student visa has become the immigration system’s “Achilles’ heel”, regularly abused as people from south Asia, West Africa and China look to, as such, the introduction of stricter work permit controls. Tens of thousands of people have also arrived to study at bogus colleges set up to circumvent immigration rules.
Other colleges would face greater oversight by border agency officials. The Tories would also introduce stricter rules to make sure people have enough money in their bank accounts to pay for a full course of study, another area widely abused.
Anxiety in UNN over increment in school fees
BY SCHOLASTICA ODUM
STUDENTS of the University of Nigeria (UNN), Nsukka, returned to school on January 4, to meet new developments, such as the re-roofing of the female halls of residence and the demolition of illegal structures within the campus.
The Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Bartholomew Okolo, determined to give the institution a facelift, has decided to continue from where his predecessor, Prof. Chinedu Ositadinma Nebo, stopped, by carrying out the project.
Okolo, since assuming office in July 3, 2009, has lived up to his promise to give the university a fresh look.
However, amidst the on-going renovation exercise, there is a growing agitation by students against the rumoured increase in tuition fees next session, which will commence in two months time.
The rumour has further gained grounds with the recent increase of acceptance fee paid by newly admitted students from N6, 000 to N25, 000, effective from 2009/2010 academic year.
The Dean of Students’ Affairs, Prof. Ugwueze Malaki, during an interview with Roar Newspaper said, the increment was necessary.
For now, the fear of a possible increment remains a big bug.
UNAD declares war on cultism By Opeyemi Dibua
THE full might of the University of Ado-Ekiti community has descended on cultism and other anti-social vices.
At a recent rally, students trooped out in large numbers to denounce the practice, which they said had brought dishonour to the country’s educational system.
Organised under the auspices of the Students’ Union, participants vowed to battle the evil of cultism, regretting that a few bad eggs in their midst have given a negative label to numerous students who are leading a decent life in the university.
The students found ally in the management of the school, which promised total support for the rally.
The first of its kind in the history of the university, the rally was followed by a meeting held in front of the Omolayo administrative building, where three former cultists (names withheld), renounced their membership of Eye Confraternity and handed over their weapons to the police.
The leader of the repentant cultists told Life Campus that a friend called ‘Stainless’ initiated him into cultism. “I don’t know his real name, but I met him at a party in Lagos. I was formerly the leader of southwest zone; we operated in all the campuses in the southwest except Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU). My parents did not know I was a cultist and even if somebody had told them, they wouldn’t believe. I can’t go back to cultism. I want to also use this opportunity to appeal to the students to forgive us.”
The Vice-Chancellor of the university, Prof. Dipo Kolawole, represented by Prof. Olaofe, admitted, “at a time, cultism was a major problem for the institution, but now with the help of God, it has been fought to a standstill.” He described the act as barbaric, and promised that the university would always give cult members -- who desire to renounce their membership -- opportunity to do so.
Kolawole also urged other students involved, either as patron or members, to desist from such act, threatening that the institution will not hesitate to punish anybody found culpable.
Prof Oloyede, the Dean of Management Science, who prayed for confessed cultists, charged them to forget the past. He quoted from Proverb 13:24 to buttress his point.
The Registrar, Dr. Omojola Awosusi, advised them not to allow anything to lure them back into cultism. He also said that they have easy access into any of the principal officers’ office for any assistance and help.
IN another development, nemesis has caught up with Abegunde Michael, a 200 level student of Economics of the school, after engaging in series of admission scams. Michael allegedly collected N88,000 from Toyin Otitolaye to facilitate her admission into the university. Toyin had earned 185 in her JAMB, a score lower than the 200 cut-off mark for admission.
Speaking with Life Campus, Toyin said, “I gave him the amount because I could not find my name on the internet among the admitted students, after spending a year in the university as a pre-degree student.” After waiting for about 11 months without getting her matriculation number, she went to the admission office to lodge a complaint, and was told she was not given admission.
According to Toyin, “he (Michael), gave me a print-out, which I have been carrying around all this while; I came to know I wasn’t given admission when I couldn’t find my name among the names of the matriculated students.”
Corps member donates materials to schools, brings relief to orphanage
BY ABOSEDE MUSARI, ABUJA
IN order to reduce HIV prevalence and teenage pregnancy among children of school age, a corps member in Abuja, Aboki Theophilus, has decided to provide school children in Abuja with information on reproductive health and HIV/AIDS.
The project, which has already been carried out in three secondary schools in the Federal Capital Territory, is part of his Personal Community Development Service (PCDS).
The project provides “accurate information on reproductive health and HIV and AIDS to young people in schools, by donating resource materials on the concerns to the schools,” he said.
According to him, the sexual and reproductive health issues faced by Nigerian adolescents have assumed critical dimensions, with about 220,000 children already living with the virus.
He added that teenage pregnancy has been the single most important reason why girls don’t complete their schooling, aside from the rising cases of teenage abortions.
This, he said, has informed his choice of reproductive health education as a way of reaching out to the younger ones within Abuja Municipal Area Council. The schools already reached are The Regent Secondary School Mabuchi, Lightway Academy Secondary School Wuse II, and Command Day Secondary School, Lungi Barracks.
Also in the spirit of service, the corps member donated a set of beddings to the City of Refuge Orphanage in Maitama.
Aboki said his decision to donate the items was informed after his visit to the orphanage, when he saw four children sharing a single bed. The items donated include double-decker beds, mattresses, bed sheets, pillows and pillowcases.