International student crackdown could harm UK’s HE sector.

‘Some of Britain’s world-renowned universities could lose their right to recruit as many international students as they want under new Home Office plans, vice-chancellors fear. Among those at risk are the London School of Economics, King’s College London and Bristol University.

The home secretary, Amber Rudd, used her maiden speech at the Conservative party conference last month to announce a crackdown on the number of overseas students coming to study in the UK, which will include different visa rules for “lower quality” universities and courses. There are fears it will use the government’s controversial new teaching rankings – expected to grade institutions “gold, silver or bronze” – to judge the “quality” of institutions.

The move, which vice-chancellors say they had been fearing since Theresa May became prime minister, has caused dismay in universities. According to Universities UK, the vice‑chancellors’ umbrella organisation, overseas students bring more than £10.7bn to the UK economy and non-EU international students make up 13% of universities’ revenues.

Colin Riordan, vice-chancellor of Cardiff University, says: “Trying to restrict the numbers of international students coming into this country because they contribute to migration numbers makes no sense. The British people don’t see students as migrants – or as a problem.”

He says stopping a university recruiting overseas students would “be an absolutely devastating blow”. “It would hugely reduce diversity, which really matters. It would reduce standards, as we need to recruit the best students wherever they are. And the financial effects would be serious – you would see wholesale job losses.”

Anxiety is escalating behind the scenes that the Home Office may want to use the Teaching Excellence Framework – the new system for ranking universities’ teaching – to decide which universities to cut. University heads warn this could have shocking unintended consequences, as some world-class research universities are not predicted to score well in the new teaching rankings…

Dominic Shellard, vice-chancellor of De Montfort University, who has tweeted under the hashtag #loveinternational since the EU referendum, called a staff meeting after Rudd’s speech to denounce the “disturbing intolerance” coming from the Home Office. He warned that relationships were already being soured abroad, telling staff that the university’s India office had sent him a local news article with the headline “Five reasons to revisit your UK college plan”.

Shellard said: “Last week the Turner prize winning artist and De Montfort University graduate David Shrigley unveiled his new sculpture on Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth: it was a giant thumbs up. After Ms Rudd’s speech it may well appear to the world that we are showing a very different finger. Because you can’t use the kind of rhetoric that we have seen idly. Words remain.”’ - Guardian


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