MOST Yorkshire universities want to expand their international recruitment to boost income when the new tuition fees system is brought in despite the threat of tighter rules being imposed over who will be allowed into the country to study.
Higher education bosses are warning that restricting access to foreign students could result in a serious drop in funding for mainstream universities which run English language and pre-degree foundation courses.
Academics fear that plans, announced by the Government this month, for tougher English language requirements for people wanting to come to the UK to study below degree level could prevent many students from going on to study degrees full-time at Yorkshire universities.
This is because universities claim the new entry criteria will stop many international students from sitting foundation years or language courses because their English is not good enough. University bosses in Yorkshire say these courses are designed to improve English language skills of overseas students and gives academics greater control over the quality of candidate they accept onto degree courses.
Huddersfield University’s dean of international development Prof David Taylor told the Yorkshire Post that the international foundation year was essential to the UK’s higher education sector as it allowed it to bridge the gap in countries where students finish school at 17- years-old- like China.
“Removing that would cut off the whole of undergraduate recruitment from China, and they would just go to Australia and the US, our major competitors.
“Offering English language is also essential to us, as it gives us full control over standards when they enter for a degree.”
Sheffield University’s director of recruitment Prof Gavin Douglas said: “We, in common with most universities, think the Government have got this wrong.
“They want to cut the number of migrants coming into the UK and they are treating international students as migrants.
“We find that hard to understand. Our figures show that the great majority have not considered staying in the country after their course has finished. “
At Sheffield University one-in-four of the non EU students at degree level came into the country to study on sub-degree courses first. Prof Douglas said these students generated around £5m in fee income.
A Home Office statement said: “We have been clear that we will do nothing to prevent those coming here to study degree level courses and will protect our world class academic institutions above and below degree level. So the universities, all of whom are Highly Trusted Sponsors of foreign students, should not worry.”
The new visa system is being proposed as universities are braced for major changes in the way they are funded, with home students tuition fees being hiked up to make up for the loss of teaching grants which are being cut by £2.9bn nationally from September, next year.
Universities are now expected to look to increase income from other areas. The number of home and EU students universities can recruit is capped each year though this limit does not apply to international students from outside the European Union who can also be charged more through fees.
A survey of universities in Yorkshire has revealed the majority plan to expand their international students numbers. Six of the nine universities in the region: York, Hull, Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam, Leeds Met and York St John told the Yorkshire Post they planned to increase international recruitment.
Leeds Met has created the new role of director of its international office to drive its overseas recruitment.
Vice chancellor Susan Price said: “International recruitment is a crucial area in which for us to grow our business, we do want to increase the number of international students. We deliver courses in many different parts of the world for example health courses in the Gambia, business courses in Hong Kong but what we really need to do is attract students here to Leeds.”
Sheffield Hallam’s deputy vice chancellor Cliff Alan said: “As UK Government funding declines as a proportion of university funding we will need to continue to diversify our income sources and international business will therefore expand.”
The Yorkshire Post – ( The Worlds Greatest Newspaper)