Insurance against UK Border raids 'essential'

The UK higher education sector has concluded that an insurance scheme to guarantee international students a fees refund or alternative places should their course or university close down is “essential”.

January 3, 2013

Under the proposed model, all UK universities would pay the same premium per student, meaning that stable institutions with no risk of closure would in effect subsidise those with more shaky financial prospects.

London Higher, which represents institutions in the capital, Universities UK, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, consultancy Deloitte and the sector’s mutual fund, UM Association, met on 22 November to discuss the plans.

Interest in the scheme has grown markedly since London Metropolitan University was stripped of its licence to sponsor international students by the UK Border Agency in August. The decision left students facing deportation and triggered negative headlines across the world.

According to London Higher’s minutes of the meeting, the bodies were unanimous in agreeing that such a scheme was not merely desirable but essential if the UK were “to compete effectively in the international market of the future”.

The “likelihood of further UKBA visa revocations” is one reason why it is crucial to establish insurance against institutional closure, the minutes say.

The opening-up of the sector to alternative providers is another factor cited.

A UK scheme would likely have a “flat-rate premium”, meaning that all universities would pay the same amount per eligible student, the parties conclude. But the scheme would be voluntary, prompting questions about how universities that are not at risk could be encouraged to join.

Any UK scheme would likely cover postgraduates initially but could be expanded if desired, the minutes explain. Most of the students affected by the London Met incident are postgraduates, the minutes note.

Another meeting has been scheduled for early this year, which the minutes say will allow UUK to survey a subset of its members on various models of the insurance scheme.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com.

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