Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Letters

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Letters

Article excerpt

Damage control in Scotland

The further the Brexit proposals for the university sector are unveiled, the more disastrous they appear ("Brexit turmoil 'pushes university pension deficit to £15 billion'", News, page 7). It seems that the prime minister is interpreting the vote to Leave as a mandate to crack down even harder on immigration. Amber Rudd's announcement last week that the Home Office would be "looking at tougher rules for students on lower-quality courses" explicitly links judgements on the quality of universities with increased restrictions on international recruitment in order to cut the number of people coming to the UK. At a stroke, she suggests that the current quality assurance system for higher education in England and Wales, and by implication here in Scotland, counts for nothing.

Ironically, it appears that the English minister for universities, Jo Johnson, knew nothing of this before it was revealed and is on record previously as arguing for the removal of students from the migration total. The word chaos is perhaps the most appropriate to describe the situation at a UK level.

Scotland's higher education system depends on the work undertaken day to day by European Union nationals who make up about 16 per cent of staff - and almost 25 per cent of research staff. They contribute to and enrich the experience of our students, and have helped to keep Scottish research world-leading in the past few decades.

Our European staff and students feel uncertain and insecure at a time when they all have so much to contribute. It is good, therefore, to see the Scottish government, Universities Scotland and the National Union of Students working together with higher education trade unions to try to repair the damage being inflicted on the sector.

Douglas Chalmers

President, UCU Scotland

Wish they were here

News that the numbers of foreign students overstaying their visas have been grossly overestimated does not come as a huge surprise. The sector has been saying for years that students are education tourists, not migrants.

If net migration figures are indeed a third lower than the current estimates, one must also wonder whether suspect statistics played a role in stoking unnecessary fears around immigration that led to Brexit and thus potential higher education funding cuts.

The government needs accurate data on international students - the International Passenger Survey is not fit for purpose. If these findings are proved to be correct, then it is imperative that the government works with the sector to remove international students from the question of immigration. International students are good for our universities, good for our economy and good for our global soft power influence.

James Pitman

Study Group

Carrot or stick?

A leitmotif of current higher education debate is the tension between public and private good ("Public higher education 'dying in the US', warns Robert Reich", News, 6 October). Governmental policy misses the point when it seeks to incentivise public benefit through schemes that offer private rewards.

One example is the recent Green Paper, Schools that Work for Everyone. The paper proposes that universities should support state schools and be rewarded through eligibility to charge higher tuition fees.

For some universities, neither the carrot nor the stick is likely to incentivise engagement in the schools agenda. Louise Richardson, vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford, was quoted recently as saying that running schools would be a "distraction". …

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