Tag Archives: student

Bin Laden is dead, but why rejoice?

The US military has killed the leader of al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. Despite the fact that I am not a hand-wringing liberal staging the occasional ‘bed-in for peace’, I am quite shocked and disgusted by the popular reaction in the US – or at least the popular reaction being shown by the media.

Yes, he was a callous, heartless leader who created a network of terror and sheltered behind Islam as a supposed means of justification for his acts. He was responsible for the death of thousands, so he is hardly a person to be missed, but to throw parties on the street because of his death seems like irrational exuberance.

There is of course the sense of revenge. The American public feeling relief that they finally “got” the perpetrator of the 9/11 attacks on the USA a decade ago.

But the numerous deaths, both military and civilians, on both sides of this war don’t deserve this reaction – running into the street and cracking open a Budweiser “because we won the war…”

Ask any of those people, what have you won today? Tough to answer isn’t it?

Unfortunately for those drinking in the street, al-Qaeda is not a traditional enemy in the form of a nation state, organised with a single leader and obeying the strategy and ruling of a government. This is not World War II all over again.

This is a war of ideology. And the death of Bin Laden does not mean that the “war” is over at all, in fact it may even serve to generate more intense hatred of the American values that led us to this place.

It’s too simple to argue that this is about the Muslim v Christian world, or the consumerist society of the west v a more traditional emerging society, or an oil-dependent America v oil-producing states. All these are factors, but at the end of the day when the actions of a nation state (or small group of allies) produce a situation where a group of nations are at war with an ideology, it is a dire place to be – almost an Orwellian cliché.

President Bush created the rhetoric of the “war on terror” and yet how can it ever be won? Should Islam be banned and dismantled because the terrorists all appear to be Muslim? Should nations harbouring terrorists be considered to be at war with the allies? Should every critic of American society be ‘taken out’ because they don’t have the same values in their society as in the US – and their small group of supporting nations?

All these descriptions of Muslim terrorists could equally apply to white supremacists – who happen to be already in the US, and are US citizens, and can arm themselves quite legally utilising the second amendment to the constitution. The war on terror and the demonisation of Islam are quite convenient ways to make this ideological battle simple enough for the evening news bulletin.

I don’t feel sympathy for Bin Laden. He was a killer. But I wish the leaders of the democratic states that profess their desire to fight a “war on terror” could find a better way to do it than through bombing places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Bin Laden turned up in the capital of Pakistan – allegedly a friend in the war on terror – so where does this leave the bombing campaigns of the past decade?

How about spending a few billion on encouraging enforced student exchange programmes? Every US graduate should spend a year at a university far from home, preferably somewhere they can learn about how a different society works just from being engaged with the people. And this would work best if it was reciprocated, so the US welcomed, and funded, foreign students at their own universities.

It may take a decade or more to see some more enlightened attitudes, but then we have just had a decade of bombing the Middle East and what has been the result? Only greater instability and a wider fear of terrorism.

The liberals echo John Lennon by chanting ‘Give peace a chance’ and are mocked by the hawks who feel that the western ideals of democracy and personal freedom need to be spread – almost as a crusade. But regardless of whether hawks or doves are right, the present approach has only created a situation far worse than it was ten or twenty years ago.

We are now two decades on from the Cold war, but attitudes don’t seem to have thawed. Isn’t it time for some radical thinking on foreign policy – particularly from the USA? Or will we just keep on engaging in decades more of ‘regime-change’?
Central Mosque, Abuja

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Don’t start blaming foreign students…

The immigration minister Damian Green has announced a crackdown on students entering the UK from overseas. The intention is to only allow the best and brightest students access to higher education in the UK.
What’s a shame is that this reform of the foreign student entry requirements is being dragged into a nationalistic debate over immigration – the focus being on the thousands of people who remain in the UK long after their course has finished.
Green said: “Why are they staying on? What are they staying on to do? This is part of a wider look we need to take at the immigration system.”
Why are they staying on indeed? Why doesn’t he ask some students to see what they say even as they being their course?
The UK is an attractive place to study. English is the language used for study and daily life, and even though the universities charge non-EU students a lot more than Europeans, a British education remains good value compared to American colleges.
Many students will come to the UK for all these reasons, plus they have a desire to find a job in the UK once they graduate. That doesn’t always happen, but by studying in the UK and having access to employers locally, it can be a strong possibility.
I can understand Green’s desire to control immigration – it’s a populist move – but I don’t think we should be frightened of graduates coming through the university system. Most graduates struggle to find decent work anyway because they have very little work experience, imagine adding the requirement for a work visa to that and you can see that it’s not an automatic gravy train for immigrants.
If Green really wants to target bogus immigration then he should steer clear of the universities and focus on the so-called ‘colleges’ that teach basic IT or English. The teaching quality of many of these colleges is highly dubious, yet a student can enrol on a course and get a visa to stay in the UK – allowing limited working hours.
It doesn’t help the student who might expect a decent level of education, or the UK job seekers who claim that migrants have displaced their jobs. Seek out the bogus colleges, but don’t tar all universities with the same brush – the UK reaps huge rewards from foreign students bringing their skills over here.

Lse library

Universities should charge more?

Remember when English universities started charging students to attend? There was an outcry. I personally still remember the days when the government ensured it was free to attend higher education, and not only free to attend, they would give you a grant based on how much cash your parents earned. Now, the Confederation of British Industry is suggesting that universities should be free to charge higher fees and that the aspiration of getting 50% of all kids through university be dropped.

It’s true, the 50% figure is aspirational and is probably not based on any research about how it affects society, but there is a psychological advantage in getting more than half of all kids through higher education. And let’s not fall into the trap of suggesting that this means kids will study useless courses just to meet the stats. Higher Education does not have to mean university alone, it can also include vocational courses that go beyond school learning up to age 18.

I think the CBI is getting this all wrong. England should really be looking to Scotland as an example, not looking to charge kids more fees. The Scottish don’t charge students for their Higher Education. It’s considered advantageous to offer a good education to children from any class or level of financial background.

If we can’t get health and education right then how on earth are we going to fix those areas of government that really do need to be rationalised? Charging students more to go to university is an incredibly short-sighted regressive step.