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APPG inquiry starts evidence gathering with stakeholders session

The All Party Parliamentary Group for International Students has begun collecting evidence for its inquiry into the landscape faced by international students in the UK.

Lord Bilimoria, seen here addressing the House of Lords, is chair of the inquiry. Photo: Parlimentlive.tv

42% of the post-graduate researchers in the nation are international

During the first two evidence sessions, chaired by Lord Karan Bilimoria and Paul Blomfield MP, the Group heard from stakeholders in the UK sector, including the National Union of Students, the British Council, and Simon Marginson of the Institute for Education.

International students pay on average 36% more than their course costs”

In response to questions from the Scottish National Party’s Alison Thewliss, Yinbo Yu the NUS International Students’ officer, said the impact of mobile students in the UK education system was clearly laid out in the answers to the NUS’s recent student survey. At least 70% of students said they value international students in their classrooms.

Shelagh Legrave, principal of the Chichester College Group and the further education representative among those giving testimony, added that international students have a meaningful positive effect on other students.

“Aspiration is boosted by international students [in the classroom] with their work ethic,” she said. Legrave also pointed to cultural exchange, citing a visit to the college by a Japanese group, and an event where students cook for each other.

“We have some wonderful cultural events. International students cook for UK students each year – a wonderful event where students mix,” she said.

“We have lost 6% of international students since 2010”

Another member of the Group, Baroness Pola Uddin, asked if international students “feel a lack of meaningful engagement with the wider community?”

Marginson said it still happens “in certain localities,” but he added that the same issue affected domestic students.

Legrave said that although “they do, in my experience, mix into the local community” the lack of work rights can be an issue for FE students. This means students simply do not get the same opportunities to mix with the community outside of the institution as HE students.

The wide-ranging discussion also touched on visa rules and compliance, experiences of working with the Home Office, and the cost of teaching international students.

To the point of cost, those answering the Group’s questions agreed that it is indeed more expensive to teach an international student, but it was also worth the extra expense.

Yu pointed out that most international students actually more than make up any deficit in cost with their fees.

“International students pay on average 36% more than their course costs. Their costs subsidise home students,” he told the inquiry.

James Pitman, Study Group managing director, said the extra expense often came from pre-enrolment courses (such as pre-master’s, or pathway programs).

“The big difference is study skills, because they come from different education environments. English for academic purposes is what it’s all about – and making sure their academic skills are as strong as they need to be,” he said.

However, he then moved on to what he viewed as the real problem – the government’s policy of including students in the migration figures.

“We have lost 6% of international students since 2010. We’ve lost market share… because of the government policy seeing students as migrants,” he told the lawmakers.

In the second half of the session, Baroness Warwick joined the questioning, and Eliza Bonham-Carter of the Royal Academy, Sonal Minocha pro vice-chancellor at Bournemouth University, John Bramwell of the British Council, and Zainal Abidin Sanusi, education minister at the High Commission of Malaysia in London gave evidence.

Research was under the microscope, and Minocha pointed out the importance of non-UK researcher on the body of work produced by UK institutions. 42% of the post-graduate researchers in the nation are international, she said.

Further, John Bramwell, the British Council’s international HE engagement specialist, told the inquiry mobility had a measurable effect on research collaborations, as collaborations often have roots in periods of study in the UK, or UK graduates who have become mobile.

The inquiry continues, with a further oral evidence session on September 11. Written contributions can be submitted to the APPGIS before September 3.

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