The blame game

December 15, 2006

I agree that universities are setting themselves ambitious targets to recruit international students ("Overseas agent probe", December 1). I would add that in the process they are bringing their institutions into disrepute. Unfortunately, when things go wrong they tend to blame the messenger - in this case the agents - rather than themselves and their recruitment staff.

Agents exist for one purpose only: to recruit as many students as possible. This inevitably means they paint a rosy picture of the institutions they represent and the advantages of studying in the UK.

But it is not only agents who are economical with the truth. University recruitment staff attending overseas education exhibitions and participating in promotional visits often exaggerate the standing of their institutions and the facilities they offer. In the article, one international officer made a telling remark: "There is a natural tension between wanting to give accurate information and trying to persuade students to come to the UK."

Overseas students are not as silly or naive as some would like to believe.

They are fully aware that studying in the UK is costly and that most British universities are more interested in extracting money from them rather than looking after their welfare. They come here because it is still to their advantage. They also know that however badly they perform, some universities will still award them degrees.

The fault, therefore, is not in our stars but in ourselves. It is the universities and their staff who are bringing UK higher education into disrepute, not the agents they employ.

Nizam Mohammed

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