Study UK launches education manifesto

05, March, 2015


Study UK, the association of independent further and higher education providers, has launched a manifesto, calling on the government to protect the UK’s position as a global education hub by overhauling the student visa system, removing international students from the immigration debate and reinstating equitable work rights.



John Healey MP welcomes delegates to the launch of the Study UK in a special reception at the House of Commons


The Study UK Manifesto 2015, launched in a special reception at the House of Commons on March 4, presents 10 policy recommendations and urges the next government to encourage healthy competition in higher education and challenge traditional models of delivery, ahead of the UK general election taking place on May 7.

Alex Proudfoot, Chief Executive of Study UK, said, “Independent providers play a vital role in equipping students with the knowledge and skills needed to meet the challenges of the 21st century. It is important that these providers are encouraged to grow and to thrive over the next five years and beyond. The current patchwork of regulation in higher education offers too much uncertainty for both students and providers, and it places a heavy administrative burden on the institutions Study UK represents.

“The Study UK Manifesto 2015 therefore calls for a new legislative framework to be established, with fairness, access and equitable treatment at its core. This framework should provide a clear route for new providers to enter the sector, should encourage innovation while protecting our reputation for quality, and should empower students to choose where and what to study with confidence.”

In terms of international education, the manifesto makes four recommendations. The first of these calls for the future government to re-commit to and expand upon ambitions for growth, “while ensuring that international students are protected from any political debates or arbitrary targets in relation to immigration”. It also calls for ownership of the policy area to be shared between the Home Office and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

The second relates to the student visa regime. “It is time the whole system is fundamentally reviewed and radically redesigned with sector input to be effective, proportionate and properly fit for purpose,” says Study UK, which notes that the goal of objectivity has been eroded by the subjectivity of credibility interviews by immigration officers, with providers then held to account for sometimes arbitrary decisions.

The UK should make a clear, consistent offer to international students, states Study UK in the third international recommendation, calling for consistently applied rights for students, regardless of where they choose to study. Furthermore, the UK should meet expectations of post-qualification training with an unrestricted post-graduation period of six months, followed by two years of structured work experience in a field related to studies, similar to the US Optional Practical Training (OPT) system for international students.  

Study UK also calls on the government to strengthen and support the export of UK education overseas.

Another recommendation that would impact positively on international students is the suggestion to protect all students to be able to complete their chosen course or receive suitable compensation, covering eventualities such as course closure, institutional failure and regulatory action.

Elsewhere in the manifesto, Study UK recommends: a Higher Education Bill that would lead to a comprehensive regulatory framework and could entail a universal licensing process for providers; that all providers meeting the specified regulatory conditions should have access to funding through loans and support; that a national validating authority be established to accredit new academic and technical degrees, rather than the current system of university validation; and that an overarching credit and qualifications framework should be introduced, enhancing understanding of qualifications, their value and equivalence.

Paul Kirkham, Study UK Director, presented the manifesto and said it would have real currency with any education provider. “We want to start a conversation and want to be engaged with that conversation,” he said. He highlighted the history of independent providers, the diversity of Study UK’s membership and said, “The vast majority of private providers receive no support. They have built what they have built themselves.”

Dismissing the term “alternative provider”, he stated, “We are all providers. There is a need for both of these traditions – and they are both traditions – to co-exist.”

John Healey MP, who hosted the reception on behalf of Study UK, praised the diversity of the association and the various educational routes offered by its members. He said the Labour Party is in favour of removing international students from migration targets, and said the international education industry was not fully appreciated in the UK. “We can’t let this go on unrecognised and lose a strong international competitive edge,” he said.

The full manifesto can be viewed online.

 

 

 

 

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