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Compliance could be key as judge of “quality” in UK

An institution’s level of Tier 4 compliance might be the barometer used to decide its “quality” and therefore ability to recruit international students, it was suggested last week at an event focused on ‘Europe – now what?’ organised by Cambridge English.

Sara Custer, The PIE News, Lucy Shackleton, UUKi, Monika Parch, University of Westminster and Paul Raybould, Hobsons, discussed the possible impacts and opportunities that Brexit might hold for UK institutions at the Cambridge English event. Photo: The PIE News

Two-thirds of current EU student numbers are expected to slide at the University of Westminster within two years

Ian Bassett, head of commercial at NARIC, made the comments at the one-day seminar which aimed to see the opportunity for UK universities as they consider what international admissions and recruitment could look like in a post-Brexit world.

Bassett’s predication was made in response to the Home Secretary’s comments earlier this month that the government was considering “tougher rules for students on lower quality courses”, leaving providers wondering how quality would be judged.

With the new government, compliance will be even stricter, Bassett underlined, while other speakers reflected that Brexit presents more recruiting as well as operational challenges ahead. Nevertheless, commentators observed that institutions must take the opportunity to prepare to face these challenges.

Educators shouldn’t “fight for the status quo” but the sector should “maximise global opportunities”

Sara Custer, editor of The PIE News, opened the day with a compelling keynote assessing the qualities that the UK still retains – a significant reputation for education which has not been dented, low value of the pound raising affordability, some best practice around employability and goodwill from European partners to “reflect and explore” future partnerships.

She pointed to TNE as one avenue of potential for building student mobility, citing statistics revealing the strong link between a touchpoint with UK education via transnational education and a likelihood to subsequently study in the country.

Big obstacles to student recruitment in the USA and Australia (9/11 and Indian student attacks respectively) had slowed international student flows into those countries before policy adjustment latterly had changed the pace of growth, Custer added.

Lucy Shackleton, head of european engagement at Universities UK International, acknowledged that the organisation doesn’t know how educators would be deemed low quality but said Tier 4 compliance or Teaching Excellence Framework performance are possibilities.

UUKi’s lobbying strategy aims to get the government to commit to quantitative immigration goals, said Shackleton, adding that the free movement of people is likely to end with the UK’s exit from the EU.

She welcomed confirmation of EU student funding and said no short-term impact from EU enrolments had been noted yet.

She argued that educators shouldn’t “fight for the status quo [of keeping EU students on domestic fees]” but that the sector should “maximise global opportunities”.

But she noted that the UK could benefit from a decision to enrol by EU students before Brexit becomes a reality, noting “we are concerned about the mid-term impact”.

Monika Parzych at the University of Westminster admitted that many in UK HE felt they had been caught off-guard by Brexit and she expressed concern that fees and visa requirements would drive EU students and faculty away from the UK.

The number of EU students is expected to slide by two-thirds at University of Westminster within two years, she revealed.

Greater focus on self-funded students will mean less diversity, she observed, but agreed that building more partnerships and TNE are new channels to explore that could build EU enrolments.

Meanwhile Paul Raybould, director of marketing and market intelligence EMEA at Hobsons, reviewed a survey showing 43% of prospective students were influenced by the Brexit result.

Ending on a positive note, Raybould added that the falling value of the pound makes the UK more attractive among Asian students who found it more affordable than local options and were more willing to go outside of the region to study.

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