Have you ever hoped that one day a government agency would develop a way for you to measure your self-esteem and quantify your potential once and for all? Well, you’re in luck!
The UK recently launched a ‘High Potential Individual’ (HPI) visa aimed at attracting the world’s ‘brightest and best’ to its sodden shores. If you qualify for the program, you are welcomed into the country for at least two years, even if you do not have a job offer.
So who counts as the brightest and best? According to the UK government, an HPI is someone who has graduated from a university ranked in the top 50 outside the UK within the last five years. You can see the list of 37 eligible universities here. Twenty-four of the universities listed are in North America and include institutions like Yale, Harvard, and MIT. None of the eligible universities are in Africa, India or Latin America. Looks like there aren’t officially any bright people in any of these places then!
It should be noted that you do not need to have graduated from one of these institutions with flying colors. So, someone who manages to do well at Yale is always given preference over someone who graduates at the top of their class from a university that is not on the list.
Apologies to anyone who survived Yale, but it goes without saying that your natural potential is not measured by the college you attended. Indeed, where you went to college often reflects your socio-economic status more than your inherent intelligence. In the United States, a majority of higher education institutions favor “legacy”: students with family ties. At Harvard, for example, the alumni acceptance rate is around 33%, compared to an overall acceptance rate of less than 6%.
Having a family member on the alumni list is far from the only way to get your offspring into an elite institution. You can also ask dad to donate large sums of money to the school. While no one knows exactly how Jared Kushner got into Harvard — perhaps it was his natural charisma — it may have something to do with his dad pledging $2.5 million (1, £9million) at university shortly before his acceptance. It certainly doesn’t seem to have had anything to do with his poor test scores.
While it’s clearly elitist and inaccurate to judge someone’s potential by the school they went to, it’s also extremely on the mark of a country that’s largely ruled by people. who went to Eton and then to Oxbridge. While many people at the top like to preach about “meritocracy,” the truth is that where you end up in life often has less to do with your natural talents than the economic status you were born into. Social mobility in the world’s richest countries has stalled since the 1990s and it has become increasingly difficult to climb the socio-economic ladder.
While the UK rolls out a red carpet for graduates from Harvard (where an undergraduate degree costs around $200,000), most other job seekers have to navigate a complex points-based system and collect $70. points just to be able to apply work in the UK. And it’s not easy: a doctorate in a field relevant to your work only earns you 10 points, for example. A job offer by an approved sponsor earns you 20 points.
What if you are the “wrong” type of immigrant? If you’ve fled a war zone and are trying to create a better life in the UK? There is definitely no red carpet for you. Instead, the British government recently announced a plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda. Anyone who does not want to go to Rwanda can return to the conflict zone from which he escaped.
“Potential” suddenly becomes irrelevant to the government in such situations. A few years ago they tried to deport a student with a place at Oxford due to uncertainty about his immigration status. His potential was not as important as where he was born.
The UK has defended its inhumane asylum policies by talking about the importance of strong borders. However, most borders are full of loopholes. Residency and citizenship of many countries can often be purchased if you invest enough money; see, for example, the billionaires who buy New Zealand citizenship as insurance against the apocalypse. Citizenship has been completely trivialized. Even if you’re not a billionaire, boundaries are much easier to cross when you have an expensive set of qualifications.
The UK’s new HPI scheme is another reminder that borders only exist for the poor.