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Week commencing 20/03/17

Lords reject status of international students as economic migrants

In a significant victory over proponents of the Higher Education and Research Bill, peers last week voted in favour of removing international students from UK net migration targets. Amendment 150, brought to the house by Lord Hannay of Chiswick, noted that ‘no student, either undergraduate or postgraduate, who has received an offer to study at such a higher education provider, ‘should’ be treated for public policy purposes as a long term migrant to the UK. The amendment passed by 313 to 219 votes, constituting a substantial blow to Universities minister, Jo Johnson. It is also bad news for Theresa May since, as this Times Higher Education article notes, ‘May…as home secretary and as prime minister has repeatedly ignored calls from the higher education sector to remove international students from net migration numbers’.

Lord Hannay claimed in his speech to the Lords that the Secretary of State has a ‘duty… to encourage overseas students to come here for their higher education’. His determination to stop international students being considered as long-term economic migrants stems, he said, from the threat of competitor institutions in the US, Canada and Australia, none of which consider students to be economic migrants. The number of Indian students, for example, coming to the UK has fallen by 53% since 2010. ‘when we negotiate trade relations following Brexit,’ Lord Hannay warned, ‘India is surely a country we all believe and hope we will have a much closer relationship with’.

News of the passing of this amendment was gratefully received by ARU Students’ Union. Jamie Smith, Activities Officer (Cambridgeshire) and President elect, said that it ‘is not just about HE, this vote speaks more broadly to how we as a country welcome people from across the world’.

 

Sexual harassment an ‘epidemic’ in UK universities

The Guardian recently published the devastating results of an investigation into sexual harassment, misconduct and gender violence on campus. 120 FIO requests sent out to UK universities revealed that, between 2011 and 2017, 169 allegations were made by students, with another 129 by staff, against academic and non-academic staff. Five universities admitted to compensating students; some contained non-disclosure agreements precluding the identity of the perpetrator from being revealed.

This article notes the need for ‘clear and fair guidelines and accompanying processes’ where sexual harassment has occurred, a ‘bare minimum for institutions with a duty of care to a young and often vulnerable student body’. Too many potential victims of inappropriate or violent behaviour are currently reliant on ‘coded glances and quiet words’ to avoid abusive staff members. Even where protective mechanisms do exist, however, the article states that victims are left ‘in a no man’s land between a piece of paper that ostensibly protects them and an institutional culture that doesn’t back it up’.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England has recently awarded the University of Cambridge a £87,000 grant to help create a ‘zero-tolerance’ culture towards sexual harassment. According to this article in the Cambridge News, ‘the university will use the money to introduce centralised policies to support victims and a new anonymous reporting system’. Our Welfare Officer, Kat Younger, sits on a group which has been set up to create comprehensive policy and processes to prevent sexual assault. It will also look at training for non-specialist and specialist staff; accessibility and visibility of information, and accommodation. 

 

Highlights from the week’s papers

Half of graduates from first year of £9,000 tuition fees now back living with parents discusses the findings of a recent NUS report.

Overseas students: UK government to ‘turn the thumbscrews’ on MPs predicts the reception that the amended Higher Education Bill will get in the Commons.