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UK: pathway providers unite in policy lobby

Five major pathway providers operating in the UK have joined together to launch a public-facing campaign to lobby for greater support of the international education sector amid Brexit talks, the upcoming general election and a political climate they say deters international students.

Destination for Education, an online platform launched by Kaplan International, Navitas, Study Group, Cambridge Education Group and INTO will “advocate for a new policy formulation that encourages international students to study in the UK”.

"The government’s stance is threatening both the sector and our reputation worldwide”

Destination for Education, an online platform launched by Kaplan International, Navitas, Study Group, Cambridge Education Group and INTO will “advocate for a new policy formulation that encourages international students to study in the UK”, Sue Edwards, a spokesperson for the campaign, told The PIE News.

One of its key missions is lobbying to remove international students from net migration targets – a goal that suffered a setback yesterday in parliament.

“Now, more than ever, is an important time for us to call for political parties to recognise the value of international students”

The campaign will also advocate for a new student visa regime that “eliminates abuse, but that allows our universities to continue to educate students from around the world”, and the use of more reliable data in policymaking.

“Britain is losing out to foreign rivals in the competition for international students,” the campaign’s website reads.

“Since 2010, changes in policy and political rhetoric towards international students have discouraged them from studying in the UK.

“Treating international students as immigrants … has endangered the long-term success of the education sector.”

Its website provides background information on discussion points such as the economic value of international students to the UK and how international students are counted.

It also outlines pertinent policy issues including the Higher Education Bill that is currently progressing through parliament. The campaign encourages the public to lobby their MPs to back an amendment to remove international students from net migration figures.

However, the amendment was defeated in a debate yesterday in which universities minister Jo Johnson said it could do “real damage” by preventing international students being treated as long-term migrants.

Education institutions have consistently contended that students are temporary migrants, as the majority return home post-graduation.

Meanwhile, Theresa May has repeatedly blocked attempts to remove them from net migration figures, but MPs on both sides of the aisle have recently stepped up calls to do so.

“At a time when Brexit is throwing up fresh problems for the higher education sector, the government’s stance is threatening both the sector and our reputation worldwide,” shadow education minister Gordon Marsden said yesterday, echoing the findings of a select committee report on Brexit and higher education released this week.

“The government has missed an opportunity to reverse this worrying trend which will be cheered by our global competitors,” said Edwards, but added that Destination for Education will continue to campaign on the issue.

“With the UK facing uncertainty following Brexit and UK parties writing their manifestos ahead of the general election on 8th June, we feel that now, more than ever, is an important time for us to work together and call for political parties to recognise the value international students bring to the UK,” she said.

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