Matthew Knott, News Editor of StudyTravel Magazine
Opinion... from the News Editor

International students are back in the news in the UK, with a Universities UK-commissioned poll revealing public opinion to be far more nuanced and sensible than current government policy.

The research, based on more than 4,000 responses, found that only 26 per cent of those polled viewed international students as migrants; 73 per cent said current international student numbers should be either maintained or increased; and three-quarters agreed that non-EU students should have fixed-term post-study work rights - all in contrast to the current direction of immigration settings.


Just a couple of days after the release of the findings came a major announcement from the Prime Minister - a general election. With the last election only in 2015 and an EU referendum last year (not to mention a recent independence vote for residents of Scotland), the government has clearly decided that the British public has an insatiable appetite for politics!


Is the election likely to impact on international education? Well the actual vote to approve the snap general election displaced a scheduled House of Commons debate on a House of Lords amendment to the Higher Education Research Bill that would have removed international students from migration figures. It is a measure desperately long awaited by the sector (see comments from Universities UK in the opinion poll story) and one seemingly gathering support from within the government, with some MPs reportedly ready to defy the party line.


A number of national media stories today suggest that Prime Minister Theresa May is finally willing to accept the amendment in order to get the main thrust of the bill through parliament before it goes into recess for the election. The alternative is that it will have to scrapped and restarted after the election, assuming the Conservatives return another majority as opinion polls suggest. Watch this space for updates!


Last week, we reported on US accrediting body the Middle States Commission on Higher Education proposing to prohibit the use of commission payments for the recruitment of international students, and this clearly sparked some interest: it has been our most-read story for some months, and we have been overwhelmed with responses from agents for a forthcoming magazine debate on the issue.


The announcement certainly surprised many, even in the USA, especially as it seemed to be heading in the opposite direction to recruitment policies there and elsewhere, as the Bridge Education Group research referenced in the story highlighted. A recent ST Magazine story on a record recruitment rise in the Netherlands included comments on the growing use of agents and commission there, and the MSCHE development obscured what would otherwise have been my opinion topic last week: healthy growth for Japan's international education sector.


A 15 per cent rise last year led to a record industry peak of 239,287 international students. While Japanese universities have officially been slightly reticent about agent usage, evidence would suggest that agents have a significant role to play. A Japanese Education Ministry official quoted in the Japan Times credited local agents in Vietnam (which increased by 38.4 per cent in 2016) with promoting Japanese education.


Last year, the Nepalese agency association IERIN indicated to StudyTravel Magazine that a number of agencies there were working directly with universities in Japan, and there was around 20 per cent growth from that market.


The inclusion of long-term language students in figures by the Japanese government might be seen as a fudge to ensure its headline target of 300,000 students by 2020 is met, but it does at least demonstrate the interconnectivity of the sector, especially in a destination with a unique language and one, thus far, offering relatively few English-medium programmes, therefore requiring high levels of participation in academic preparation courses, another channel for agents to market.


A quick word on the StudyTravel Star Awards before I sign off: there is only one week of voting left for the 2017 awards. If you haven't voted yet, don't miss this opportunity to reward the excellence in service of your preferred industry partners.



Matthew Knott

News Editor