14 Jul

The challenge to international recruitment continues

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Today it is pretty likely the staff in the international offices at universities and colleges across the UK will be trying to comprehend the serious changes announced yesterday to Immigration Rules. The questions being asked about the Rules will likely be:

  • Will they progress unchanged? (likely)
  • Will they have an impact on recruitment and enrolment strategies? (very likely)
  • Don’t they understand, international students are beneficial?  Why are they doing this? (election promises)

The official government line is that “These new rules make a number of changes to the Tier 4 route of the Points-Based System to reduce net migration and to tackle immigration abuse, whilst ensuring we maintain an excellent offer for students who wish to study at our world-class universities.”

Contrast this with the way that it is already being reported:

“Foreign students will be banned from working in the UK and forced to leave as soon as they finish course under Theresa May’s tough new visa rules.”

The Independent

“Work restrictions on foreign students extended in ‘visa fraud crackdown’”

The Guardian

“Foreign students will be banned from working and forced to leave the UK when their course ends.”

The Daily Mail

The main changes under the new rules, that will be presented to MPs next week, will see non-EU students unable to work in the UK while they study and having to leave the country as soon as they finish their course.

Non-EU students accounted for 121,000 immigrants last year and in an attempt to defend her position Ms May pointed to the fact that only 51,000 of those foreign students left the UK, leaving a net influx of 70,000.

At the same time FE colleges will be hit with far tighter measures, including:

  • Reducing the length of further education visas from three years to two.
  • Preventing college students from applying to stay on in Britain and work when they finish their course, unless they leave the country first.
  • Preventing further education students from extending their studies in Britain unless they are registered at an institution with a formal link to a university.

The number of international students in FE has plummeted in recent years from a peak of more than 110,000 in 2011 to 18,297 in the last 12 months.

If you are super interested you can read the full statement here.

Why are they doing this?

It comes back to an election manifesto commitment to reduce net migration to “the tens of thousands” at the last election.  They failed, from September 2013 to September 2014, net migration was 298,000.  Despite this, the promise was reiterated during the last campaign.  Unable to impact EU migration the government has turned its sights, despite sustained lobbying by the sector, to international students who make up the largest proportion of net migrants.

So…what is this all likely to mean?

In our past surveys, international students have clearly told us that when choosing a country that the country’s attitude towards international students and whether they can expect a warm welcome is one of the most important factors.  On the face of it these changes will do nothing enhance the expectation of a warm welcome.

The UK has already seen a levelling off of growth in international students since the changes to the Post Study Work Visa were made in four years ago.  Figures from HESA (2013-14) show that the number of students from outside the UK coming to study in the UK increased by 3% to 435,500.  Indian students, the second largest cohort at 19,750 saw a drop of 2,635 on the previous year and most commentators attribute this to the change to the PSW.  Expect this to continue, particularly for countries where the students rely on some kind of part time work during study.

In the face of gains made by other countries with increasingly (and competitively) open and welcoming attitudes towards international students, I expect UK based international recruiters will be feeling this has just made their job a whole lot harder.

02 Jul

Whole Student Lifecycle approach endorsed by new Minister

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Yesterday the new Minister for Universities and Science Jo Johnson made his first major, and much anticipated speech, about higher education.

The title of the speech ‘Teaching at the heart of the system’ signals his overall thinking and policy ideas about the future of the sector.  At Hobsons we are excited to see that the Minister has reinforced the need for a whole student lifecycle approach, an approach that we’ve been taking for sometime with our advising and admissions solutions.

You can read the full speech here and we think that as usual there is some particularly good analysis from Mark at wonkhe!

We were most interested to hear the Minister say that universities must continue to provide, and look to meet, student’s value for money expectations.  He also said that students should be able to make informed choices and that he will push for more data to be available.  We are big believers in more effective use of data!

We were also pleased to see a renewed commitment to teaching excellence including that institutions should admit students from a range of backgrounds and support their retention and progression to further study or a graduate job and, critically, that there should be clear set of outcome-focused criteria and metrics to support this.

We’ve been digesting and examining what it means for Hobsons and our clients and we think it means three main things:

One: Institutions that we work with are increasingly making better use of tools like Radius CRM to provide their prospective students with a joined up experience and timely, targeted and personalised communications.

Two: We’ve seen the institutions we work with really start to leverage systems, particularly at key times in the year like the lead up to clearing, to stand out in an increasingly crowded market.

Three: We are increasingly hearing from institutions that want to enhance their student success and retention initiatives and support students achieve their academic goals.

We are excited that later this year we will be providing the opportunity for more UK universities to access the Starfish Student Success solution and I’m personally looking forward to talking to delegates at the AMOSSHE conference next week about the impact it has already had for some institutions.