Rishi Sunak Faces Criticism Over Decision to Permit Russian Students in UK

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London (Parliament Politic Magazine) – Rishi Sunak faces Tory criticism for allowing Russian students into the UK amid Putin’s aggression; debate ensues over policy shift.

Rishi Sunak’s conclusion to allow Russian students to pursue a UK-based master’s degree sought at “emerging leaders” can only possibly aid “apparatchiks of Putin’s regime,” senior Tory MP Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg. Meanwhile, former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith engraved the decision as “hopeless,” asking: “Why are we doing this?”

The UK had initially blocked Russians from presenting applications for the Chevening scholarship program in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Russia on February 24, 2022.

However, the Foreign Office has now lifted this restraint, indicating Russian students are free to submit applications once again – despite Putin’s ongoing war and his aggressive rhetoric against the West, including Britain.

The scheme permits overseas students to be brought to British universities, with the costs of flights, housing, and tuition fees all included – provided they return to their home countries once they graduate.

Founded in 1983 as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Awards Scheme, it was renamed in 1994 after Chevening House in Sevenoaks, Kent, the incumbent foreign secretary’s grace and favor home.

Partaking students receive a stipend worth around £18,500 and full tuition, with a moderate degree usually costing overseas graduates £17,109. Adding in the cost of flights, the fee could amount to £35,000 per year per student, although the Foreign Office has declined to disclose the amount involved or how many students will be funded this year.

Remarking on The Independent’s investigation, Sir Jacob said the Government should “clearly continue the suspension of this scheme.” He warned: “It will only possibly benefit apparatchiks of Putin’s regime.

“If this money is available, it ought to be spent helping Russian families living in exile to avoid Putin’s murderous regime.” Commenting on what he called the “hopeless” decision, Sir Iain asked: “Why are we doing this at this time?

“After Putin’s brutal incursion of Ukraine that has cost so many lives and destroyed so many towns and cities. Why would we want to do this?”

Tobias Ellwood, former chairman of Parliament’s Defence Committee, stated: “Given Russian sports athletes are banned from international competitions and cannot compete under the Russian flag, spending a penny on supporting Russian students is absurd.  We can and must suspend support of Russians if they are returning to Putin.”

However, Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman Alicia Kearns urged reopening the scheme to Russian applicants was “the right thing to do.”

She described: “Enabling Russian students, the brightest and best, to see that Putin’s ‘truths’ are anything but, and to experience a society that is open and free, is the right thing to do.”

An FDCO spokesman stated: “Our argument is with Putin’s regime and his illegal invasion of Ukraine. It is not with the Russian people, many of whom are increasingly suffering the consequences of this invasion.”

An FDCO insider asserted those returning to Russia would take back the “experience of our values and society compared to theirs” and that Chevening alumni “can make a big difference diplomatically.”

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They contended: “Clearly, Russia is in a different place right now, but we have never made our absolute commitment to helping Ukraine in its self-defense against Putin’s illegal and brutal invasion and attack or repulsion of the Russian people.”

Daniele Naddei

Daniele Naddei is a journalist at Parliament News covering European affairs, was born in Naples on April 8, 1991. He also serves as the Director of the CentroSud24 newspaper. During the period from 2010 to 2013, Naddei completed an internship at the esteemed local radio station Radio Club 91. Subsequently, he became the author of a weekly magazine published by the Italian Volleyball Federation of Campania (FIPAV Campania), which led to his registration in the professional order of Journalists of Campania in early 2014, listed under publicists. From 2013 to 2018, he worked as a freelance photojournalist and cameraman for external services for Rai and various local entities, including TeleCapri, CapriEvent, and TLA. Additionally, between 2014 and 2017, Naddei collaborated full-time with various newspapers in Campania, both in print and online. During this period, he also resumed his role as Editor-in-Chief at Radio Club 91.
Naddei is actively involved as a press officer for several companies and is responsible for editing cultural and social events in the city through his association with the Medea Fattoria Sociale. This experience continued until 2021. Throughout these years, he hosted or collaborated on football sports programs for various local broadcasters, including TLA, TvLuna, TeleCapri, Radio Stonata, Radio Amore, and Radio Antenna Uno.
From 2016 to 2018, Naddei was employed as an editor at newspapers of national interest within the Il24.it circuit, including Internazionale24, Salute24, and OggiScuola. Since 2019, Naddei has been one of the creators of the Rabona television program "Calcio è Passione," which has been broadcast on TeleCapri Sport since 2023.