Private whipping boys

March 31, 2011

While it is heartening to see the government trying to wrestle with the complex issues surrounding overseas students, its latest announcements have thrown up a number of inconsistencies ("Visa concessions made, but question marks remain", 24 March).

According to the coalition, educational institutions are now expected to hold "highly trusted sponsor" status, yet publicly funded institutions are automatically given it.

The government states: "Students at universities and publicly funded further education colleges will retain their current work rights but all other students will have no right to work, and we will place restrictions on work placements at courses outside of universities." Does it mean to imply that non-European Union students at private institutions are inferior to those benefiting from the taxpayers' largesse?

No one disputes that there have been bogus institutions, bogus agents and abuse of the system, yet there seems to be a conspiracy of silence when it comes to acknowledging the part UK universities have played through overfranchising. Dropout rates at many universities are far higher than those at a number of private institutions, but this has been conveniently overlooked. Evidently, the lobbying power of the university vice-chancellors remains as powerful as ever.

No amount of sophistry or semantics will hide the fact that lean and more cost-effective private institutions have become the whipping boys for the government's and the public higher education sector's failures.

Mark T. Jones, Director of external affairs, London College of Management Studies

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