Much wailing and gnashing of teeth has accompanied the Government’s approach to controlling the number of international students. Rightly, I think, but I won’t re-rehearse the arguments.
I was struck this weekend by what could be the great unsung success of the policies. At the same time as the Government have been forcing changes onto Universities with a long and reliable track record of recruiting and supporting international students; they have been putting the squeeze onto bogus colleges.
Hundreds of these colleges have been operating throughout the country for years. For anyone living in London the sight of a ‘College of Advanced Studies’, ‘Institute of Modern Management Studies’ or some other such vacuous name was quite common. They could usually be found residing above kebab shops or down dark alleys, which just added to the general sense of suspicion. They have been known about for years, but nothing has really been done to check whether they are legitimate or not.
So, when the Government announced their tight controls on international student recruitment, they also insisted that any organisation seeking to do this would have to be subject to a review by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) or the Independent Schools Inspectorate. QAA review has been used for years as a means by which Universities achieve highly trusted sponsor status, so this was no big deal and went by unnoticed. What changed was that from 2011, any organisation delivering coursed had to be subject to review, not just awarding bodies.
It is reassuring to see that QAA has taken this work on relatively smoothly, and that it is publishing tens of positive review outcomes every couple of weeks. But what we don’t see is the number of organisations that have simply decided to throw in the towel. This was brought home to me this weekend while I was visiting friends in London. On a short walk from London Bridge to Borough tube station, no less than 4 of these college had signs up saying they had closed down over the past 6 months.
Maybe I’m just being too judgemental or harsh, but I can’t imagine that these places were offering students a world class education or that they were enhancing the reputation of UK Higher Education.
Every cloud has a silver lining . . . ?