Overseas students keep UK universities afloat

Bravo! An interesting article today in the Education Guardian, poses the question of whether UK universities are too reliant on overseas students.

This is something which I have been thinking ever since I started the MA course at Ravensbourne (when I realised there were only 4 British students (out of 18) on the course). So I think it’s about time this issue got some coverage.

The basic premise of the article International Rescue is that the UK universities have changed in dramatic and complex ways since the governments 1999 initiative to increase the intake of international students, which has generated billions of pounds in fees. In 2004, this revenue brought in £4bn in fees (and possibly this amount again in spending on living costs in the UK). Some universities gain a third of their total income from overseas fees, highlighting the importance of this financial input.

Higher Education is therefore clearly a product which PM Tony Blair is keen on exporting. In fact a new second initiative launched today by Blair aims at doing exactly that: increasing the number of international students to 100,000(approximately a third of the total amount of students studying in UK), over a 5 year plan.

As an MA student myself, my overall response to this is that, although I have felt that the range of international students has in many ways enhanced the experience of the course, I am nevertheless a little cynical about the recruitment strategies of the college. Would it be possible that higher paying students have priority over domestic students to get onto popular courses based on their ability to pay more? Also I suspect this may be having a dire effect on the standard of education because it seems some international students are getting onto courses without "adequate" grasp of the English language. I think it’s completely unacceptable and unfair to have students in this situation, not just on the starry-eyed individual 'living in oblivion', but also on the rest of the class. The novelty factor at finding 100 different ways to communicate something soon wears off!

What institutions don't seem to understand is that this has an effect on everyone. The long term implications I think are immense and (surely) each year worsening!

As always though "money is king". Targets to be met. Education reduced to big business. I think George Ritzer talks about education in this way in the Mcdonaldization of Society (if I remember rightly?!)

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