Dalek politics? May forges ahead
Meanwhile, the House of Lords European Union Committee this week became the fifth parliamentary group to urge the government to remove international students from its target to cut net migration. The MPs and peers who chair the five committees are now thought to be considering a joint letter to the government calling for action.
Ms May’s speech on immigration last week brought criticism from Edward Acton, the University of East Anglia vice-chancellor, who has led Universities UK’s lobbying for university sponsored students to be removed from the coalition’s net migration target.
The home secretary announced a further 100,000 interviews for non-EU students planning to come to the UK and warned that the government “will continue to monitor strictly the adherence of universities as well as colleges to our rules”.
Professor Acton said that “the essential tone and message means she is continuing to cast this dark cloud over British higher education, and continuing to counteract and undermine government policy in this area - which is to nurture and increase the flow of (legitimate) non-EU students to British universities”.
He said that ministers in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, who back the sector’s case for the importance of overseas students, “are performing extremely well. It must be absolutely maddening that Ms May is sabotaging what they are trying to do.”
He added: “I think the prime minister, from what I can gather, is sympathetic [to UUK’s argument on net migration]. But…the dynamic of the Cabinet means he is refusing to overrule [Ms May].
“Rather like a Dalek, she will forge ahead until something gets in her way.”
Professor Acton warned that it made no sense for the government to “pour resources into promoting British higher education” overseas, only for “your own Home Office to stab you in the back”.
London Metropolitan University’s licence to sponsor international students was revoked by the UK Border Agency earlier this year.
Asked whether another university could suffer such a fate, Professor Acton said: “I can’t with confidence say there will never be another. Because we are currently receiving such arbitrary treatment [from the UKBA]…it is very hard to predict. I don’t feel as if the rule of law is operating.”
Meanwhile it has emerged that the UKBA recently visited the University of Bedfordshire and gave it an action plan, requiring improvements in aspects such as maintaining records on overseas students’ level of English.
Bill Rammell, Bedfordshire’s vice-chancellor, met with UKBA officials and the issues are thought to have been resolved.
A Bedfordshire spokeswoman said the university is a UKBA “A-rated institution with ‘highly trusted sponsor’ status. This is the highest status which UKBA can award, and this status was recently reconfirmed following a visit by UKBA.”