Brexit : Fallout will impact Malaysian students


By Andrew Headspeath

Malaysia could also be affected by the June 23 referendum which saw Britain vote to leave the European Union.

According to the UK Council for International Student Affairs, there are more than 17,000 Malaysian students in UK universities. These students are subject to tighter economy and immigration rules.

If the British pound remains weak, they may pay less in tuition fees. On the other hand, if EU students are re-classified as international, then there may be fewer places available for those not from the EU, and this could also result in higher charges.

Those intending to stay back and work in the UK, could be affected too.

Currently non-EU workers must earn a salary above £35,000 (RM188,000) to stay in the UK permanently. If EU workers fall into this group, that cap could rise.

Li Yen Can, a Malaysian law student in Glasgow, said: “At first I thought it wasn’t any of my business, that it wouldn’t affect me in any way. Then, all of a sudden, there is all this dispute.

“I like the UK. If we don’t get a job above that cap then we might all have to leave.”

Most recently, new British Prime Minister Theresa May had issued a crackdown on student visas.

The Home and Education Offices are looking at ways to stop overseas students from taking university courses as a means to working in the UK, limiting admissions and number of visas available. This is part of May’s plan to reduce “net migration” to below 100,000.

As for UK nationals living in Malaysia, the future remains uncertain. Watching scenes unfold on the other side of the planet, expats can choose to either engage or remove themselves from the drama.

Stacey Shah, a speech therapist from Edinburgh who has lived in Kuala Lumpur for four years, said: “It’s quite terrifying to watch something that has such a big impact on your life from thousands of miles away.

“Because of the time difference I was at work when the results were coming in. I had BBC on live feed and was updating it at every possible moment.”

Jude Heaton, a programme director from London living in Kuala Lumpur, expressed his “mixed feelings” on being an expat during this major political decision.

“On the one hand, I would like to be somewhere where it’s in the air – everyone’s talking about it and debating it and I can feel more part of the debate and discussion,” he said.

“When you don’t have that around you, you feel a bit more isolated. Having said that, part of me is quite relieved as it’s been such a nasty time.”

Rewinding to last year, Heaton reflects on the Conservative re-election to Parliament; a moment he says spurred on his decision to move to Malaysia.

“I was very upset by the results,” he says. “I was leaving my flat to go to work, feeling so depressed and worried about the direction our country was going.

“I looked up, and literally the first thing I saw was a bus driving past. On the side, it read in big capital letters ‘MALAYSIA: ENDLESS CELEBRATION’.

“And I thought, you know what, I’m going to leave this country for a while. Just get away.

“A part of me feels very glad that I’m a long, long way away. I’m trying to live the way I can, influencing positive change in a different country.

“At the moment I can’t do that in the UK.”

Andrew Headspeath is a social justice advocate and citizen of the world.

Brexit’s rocky road, Brits unclear on what lies ahead