Overseas students do not need to be the “brightest and best” to study in the UK, a government official has said, despite Home Office rhetoric on the issue.
The phrase has been used repeatedly by ministers in relation to international students. While defending government policy on overseas students in June, Mark Harper, the immigration minister, said that the UK was “open for business” to the “brightest and best” migrants.
Vicky Elliott, head of international education at the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, told a recent Westminster Higher Education Forum seminar that the phrase “often gets used”.
“But what I would say is that it isn’t just about the brightest and the best, it’s about anyone who is eligible to come and study in the UK,” she told the event, Exporting UK Education – Implementing the Education Sector Industrial Strategy, held in London on 5 December.
As long as applicants fulfil language, qualifications and maintenance criteria, “they’re welcome to come to the UK”, she said.
She was responding to a question from a delegate who said that international students were “not always the brightest and the best” and were more like home students from a widening participation background.
Ms Elliott was explaining the government’s industrial strategy for education, released in July. International Education: Global Growth and Prosperity commits to “increase protection for international students while they are here”.
But asked whether there were plans for a sector-wide insurance scheme to protect students in the event of their university being unable to teach them because of financial failure or some other reason, she said: “It’s not something that’s being considered in detail at the moment.”
An insurance scheme was discussed by a number of sector bodies after the temporary revocation of London Metropolitan University’s licence to sponsor international students in August 2012.
In October, calls for an insurance system were repeated by the Higher Education Commission in a report, Regulating Higher Education.