In March, the Lords voted in favour of Amendment 150 to the Higher Education Bill, which would ensure that students are not treated as long term migrants to the UK. One of the supporters of the amendment, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, highlighted research from Universities UK showing that international students contributed about £25.8 billion to the UK economy and supported 206,600 full time jobs nationally in 2014-2015.
In 2015, the international education and ELT sectors in the UK lobbied the then Home Secretary Theresa May to remove international students from the net migration figures . A report by the Times called into question government claims that ‘tens of thousands’ of students overstayed their visa, showing that only about 1 per cent do so. Nevertheless, a further crackdown on international student numbers was announced late last year in a bid to reduce immigration figures.
The new drive, it seemed, would involve the use of another bête noire of the international education sector, the TEF, to determine which ‘quality’ institutions would be able to enrol international students. The House of Lords voted for another amendment to the Bill which would ‘prohibit the use of the TEF ranking in either the setting of the student fee cap or the number of students that a university can recruit’, for both home and international students.
The TEF measures student satisfaction, retention rates and employment opportunities, excluding research quality (usually assessed by the Research Excellence Framework). As we went to press, the Bill hadn’t yet been returned to the House of Commons for the final vote.