Visa crackdown bolsters case for overseas campuses, 1994 Group says

Research-intensive universities in the UK should be considering setting up more campuses overseas to counter the threat of falling international student numbers at home, a mission group has said.

November 26, 2011

A report on internationalisation from the 1994 Group suggests there is more scope for research-intensives to set up abroad – and that they should consider working with other universities to achieve such a goal.

The study says post-1992 universities had been able to deliver more higher education “offshore” than pre-1992 institutions, but there was no reason why they should not follow suit.

This was also imperative given that they had traditionally relied on being able to attract large numbers of overseas students to study in the UK – a trend now at risk from the government’s immigration reforms.

“There is scope for research-intensive institutions to grow offshore provision internationally as University Alliance and million+ universities have successfully been able to do,” says the report, Strategies and trends in the internationalisation of UK universities.

“Research intensive institutions have a higher profile of international students on campus to international offshore students.

“Whilst [they] have traditionally been able to attract international students to the UK they face greater risks from visa reforms.”

It goes on to suggest that in the harsh economic climate “collaboration and pooling of resources between UK universities may present greater opportunities for overseas partnership and reach”.

The report also calls on the government to counter negative perceptions being created by its visa reforms that the UK is “closed” for business.

“At a time when our international competitors are stepping up their global recruitment activities this presents dangers for UK higher education,” it says, adding that higher education should be “explicitly linked to the UK’s growth agenda”.

Group chair Michael Farthing, vice-chancellor of the University of Sussex, said: “The government is missing a trick by not supporting the international ambitions of UK universities.

“Ensuring that UK universities have the support needed to thrive on the world stage is a key factor in driving growth, and should be at the heart of the government’s economic strategy.”

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