Labour ‘open’ to rekindling targets for overseas student growth

Labour’s shadow business secretary is “open” to setting a target to increase overseas students if the party returns to power as the major export industry has been “taken hostage by the Home Office” under the coalition.

June 10, 2013

Chuka Umunna, speaking at the launch today of a major report on the future of higher education by the Institute for Public Policy Research thinktank, also criticised the way higher education spending appears in government accounts as “smoke and mirrors” – suggesting that a Labour government would consider ways to revise the approach.

The report’s recommendations – many of which had been thoroughly trailed in advance – include a call for “many” further education colleges to be “given the ability to award degrees and granted the renewed use of the title ‘polytechnic’”.

The report, seen as important in the development of Labour’s higher education policy and titled A critical path: securing the future of higher education in England, was led by a panel of commissioners headed by Nigel Thrift, the University of Warwick vice-chancellor.

At the launch, Mr Umunna was asked by Vivienne Stern, Universities UK’s head of political affairs, whether a future Labour government would consider reviving the Prime Minister’s Initiative launched under Tony Blair which set “a clear numerical target for growth in international student numbers”.

“I’m certainly open to that and will talk to Yvette Cooper [Labour’s shadow home secretary] about [it],” Mr Umunna said.

He added: “My big problem with the government at the moment in this area is that our HE sector, as a strong and vibrant export sector, has been taken hostage by the Home Office. And it has to stop.

“It is doing deep and immense damage. We cannot afford for that to happen to a leading export sector, in the context of our balance of trade deficit.”

Mr Umunna was also told by Pam Tatlow, chief executive of million+, that any new approach to higher education funding would need a change to Treasury rules around the classification of loans.

He answered that there is currently “a lot of smoke and mirrors in respect of how spending in this sector appears in the accounts”.

While student loans were an “an upfront cost which doesn’t [wholly] appear in the deficit”, a graduate tax would be “an after the event charge which does appear in your deficit”, he argued.

On the polytechnic proposal for further education colleges “specialising in the provision of employment focused higher education”, the IPPR report says that “a differentiated title would protect a distinctive role for higher vocational learning that was arguably lost with the end of the binary system”.

It adds that “polytechnic status would be a mark of vocational excellence, sending out wider signals about the importance of vocational learning. It would declare that the university title and the university route are not the only form of high status in our system.”

On private providers, a key element of the current government’s approach to creating competition in the sector, the report says that degree awarding powers “should never be bought or sold, and the title of ‘university’ should be reserved for institutions oriented towards the public good”.

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

Reader's comments (1)

The rapidly developing Higher Apprenticeships from HNC to Masters degree (QCF levels 4 to 7), would seem to present an opportunity for a new technical-type University re-grouping formed from HEIs with appropriate subject and research experience and resources, such as some of the ex-CATs, ex-Polytechnics and selected FE colleges, which could potentially provide both ‘best in class’ teaching and practice-based research, enhanced through their differentiated inherent academic strengths, potentially attractive to commercial partners and students seeking careers in the industrial professions.

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Reader in Politics and Policy

St Marys University, Twickenham



Professor of Anthropology

Maynooth University

Preceptor in Statistics

Harvard University

Postdoctoral Fellowship in Electrochemistry

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu
See all jobs

Most Commented

Doctoral study can seem like a 24-7 endeavour, but don't ignore these other opportunities, advise Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman

Matthew Brazier illustration (9 February 2017)

How do you defeat Nazis and liars? Focus on the people in earshot, says eminent Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt

Improvement, performance, rankings, success

Phil Baty sets out why the World University Rankings are here to stay – and why that's a good thing

Laurel and Hardy sawing a plank of wood

Working with other academics can be tricky so follow some key rules, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

Warwick vice-chancellor Stuart Croft on why his university reluctantly joined the ‘flawed’ teaching excellence framework