Withdrawal of ‘flawed’ international student survey welcomed

Academics raised concerns about ‘loaded’ questions asked by Migration Advisory Committee

May 18, 2018
Source: iStock

Student leaders have welcomed the withdrawal of a survey assessing the impact of international students in the UK after academics claimed that it was flawed and racist.

The government’s Migration Advisory Committee, which is conducting a review of overseas learners’ immigration status, had circulated the questionnaire earlier this week in a bid to gather students’ views on their foreign classmates. But concerns were quickly raised that the survey could be completed by anybody and that some of the questions were “loaded”.

Universities UK, which represents vice-chancellors, said on Twitter that, following the raising of “legitimate concerns”, it would not be sharing the survey further. “While it’s important that policymakers hear from students about international students’ positive impact, views must be sought appropriately,” the organisation said.

The committee then said that it would withdraw the survey.

“Following online commentary, it has become apparent to us that we will be unable to use the responses to the survey to draw any conclusions. We have therefore taken the decision to withdraw the survey,” the committee said. “The survey had the potential to show a very positive view of international students in the UK but now cannot be used to add to our evidence base.”

Yinbo Yu, the National Union of Students’ international students’ officer, said that the survey had been “inherently flawed”.

“The questions suppose an ‘us’ and ‘them’ between UK and international students, with one question even asking students to make a judgement call, seemingly based on appearance, of how many international students are in their class,” Mr Yu said. “This is not only shockingly insensitive, but it does not reflect the reality of our diverse yet cohesive university communities.

“The survey was also open to abuse. There was no verification process for students, and respondents were able to complete the survey multiple times.

“The results of the survey could be used to inform future policy which could affect the lives of thousands of students. That this could be based on such shoddy research should be a cause for scandal. We welcome the speedy removal by the Home Office [and] all data collected so far must be discarded immediately,” Mr Yu said.

chris.havergal@timeshighereducation.com

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