‘Cheap, pathetic gestures’ on immigration harming HE

A business leader has said he is “appalled” to see universities end up as “victims of political point-scoring” and a “meaningless” migration target

October 24, 2014

Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, also accused politicians of making “cheap, pathetic gestures” on immigration when he spoke at a conference on student visa policy, hosted by the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee and Regent’s University London.

Keith Vaz MP, chairman of the committee, which issued a report in 2011 calling for students to be withdrawn from net migration figures, told the conference that the committee would be issuing a fresh report on student visas before the election.

Mr Walker told the conference that the UK was no longer a great defence or economic power but was “a great, possibly even the greatest, intellectual power”. That was “down to the university sector of this country and to its openness to international influence”, he added.

He said that at the recent Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, he had heard Prime Minister David Cameron say there was “no cap” on the number of international students coming to the UK. But later, at a conference dinner, Mr Walker had sat next to a Russell Group deputy vice-chancellor who told him that 25 potential students from Nigeria had had their visa applications refused.

Their applications “had been turned down by the local UK immigration official in Nigeria because he wasn’t satisfied that the course was genuine: a top-flight, Russell Group university”, said Mr Walker.

He added that he was concerned by the “damage it does to British influence and attitudes to this country globally that 25 motivated future leaders from Nigeria are denied entry to this country on the whim of a bureaucrat”.

And he said: “I’m appalled when politicians make cheap, pathetic gestures to cater to what they think is public opinion. I would like to see politicians closing up the gap between perception and reality and telling voters across this country the truth about immigration.”

Making an apparent reference to the government’s target to cut net migration to the “tens of thousands”, Mr Walker also said: “I’m appalled that universities end up being the victims of political point-scoring and a meaningless gesture that was made before the last election without any thought by the politicians involved when in reality, students are the immigrants that the population of the United Kingdom are least concerned about.”

Vivienne Stern, director of the UK Higher Education International Unit, told the conference that British universities risked becoming “dangerously unbalanced” as student numbers from India fell while reliance on Chinese student recruitment increased.

“I think many universities worry that we are seeking to create a truly international environment in universities and that unless we have a balance of students from around the world, we won’t achieve that,” she said.

Aldywn Cooper, vice-chancellor of Regent’s University London, which draws around 50 per cent of its students from non-EU countries, said international student recruitment was “too much a political issue” in the UK.


You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Retired academics calculating moves while playing bowls

Lincoln Allison, Eric Thomas and Richard Larschan reflect on the ‘next phase’ of the scholarly life