UUK to review fair admissions and agent behaviour
The board of Universities UK – on behalf of 142 university members – has announced a series of immediate actions it says are required to give confidence that the admission system is “fair, transparent and robust”.
In recent weeks there has been “significant focus” on international student recruitment practices, it said, as it pledged to review quality and comparability of programs for international and domestic students, as well as a review into the Agent Quality Framework.
Additionally, it will update its Admissions Code of Practice to “clearly state its applicability to international recruitment”.
It follows a report in a major national newspaper – that was heavily criticised by the international education sector – that suggested international students could gain access to UK university courses more easily than UK students.
The article was described as “not true” as it overlooked the fact that entry to international foundation programs – the equivalent to A-Levels for UK students – does not guarantee entry to university degree programs. Those entry requirements are equivalent to those for home students.
However, some in the sector acknowledged that fast-track International Year One programs should be scrutinised for potentially giving international students an “easy route” directly to year two of a bachelors program.
In a statement, UUK said, “There has been a significant focus on recruitment practices relating to international students in recent weeks.
“While many aspects of the reporting misrepresented the admissions process and criteria, we recognise the concern this has caused for students, their parents, and the public and it is vital that they all, along with government, have confidence that the system is fair, transparent, and robust.
“Where there is practice that falls below the standards expected of our universities and their representatives, we will take action.”
The department of education announced earlier this week it would launch an investigation into bad practice associated with agents. The issue has also been debated in the House of Lords.
Baroness Barran MBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Education in Lords yesterday on the new investigation into agents, “Our work will focus particularly on the unscrupulous behaviour of recruitment agents” pic.twitter.com/YqhDDPLK1T
— Viggo Stacey (@Viggo_ThePIE) February 2, 2024
“To be clear, our work will focus particularly on the unscrupulous behaviour of recruitment agents, and whether it is genuinely easier for international students than for domestic students to get places on undergraduate courses,” Baroness Barran, parliamentary under secretary of State at the Department for Education said on February 1.
“There is no evidence that international students are displacing domestic students in England”
“However, there is no evidence that international students are displacing domestic students in England, where UK students make up 85% of the total population. We will be working on this as a matter of urgency, but I do not have as yet a definite timeline to give.”
QAA will undertake a rapid review of international foundation programs, comparing them to home foundation programs, including entry requirements, UUK added.
Together with government and partners, UUK will update the AQF and ensure adoption across the sector, while making recommendations on how bad practice can be identified.
If necessary, UUK will also update the Admissions Code of Practice – which is agreed to by more than 100 institutions – to “signpost where the Code is expected to apply to international recruitment”.