The process of international student admissions in the UK is under scrutiny following allegations of universities lowering entry standards for foreign applicants who pay significantly higher tuition fees.
Universities UK, representing 140 institutions, has announced plans to review international foundation programs and the utilization of recruitment agents aimed at attracting foreign students, as reported by The Guardian.
In addition to conducting a comprehensive review, universities will revise their admissions code of practice to explicitly outline its relevance to international students.
This decision comes in response to remarks made by Higher Education Minister Robert Halfon in the House of Commons, expressing concern over a Sunday Times report revealing questionable practices in agent usage, which he deemed unacceptable.
"While I strongly advocate for international students, I also advocate for a level playing field for all domestic students," remarked Halfon during parliamentary discussions last week.
In light of Halfon's statements, Vice Chancellors have committed to collaborating with the government to reassess agent usage and implement improvements to enhance resilience and detect malpractice.
The Times investigation highlighted instances such as the University of York advising staff to demonstrate flexibility in admitting international students with grades lower than expected. Agents representing universities like Durham and Exeter allegedly claimed that students with subpar grades could easily secure admission through international foundation courses.
Durham University refuted these allegations, asserting that entry requirements for international students completing international foundation years are rigorously benchmarked to align with those for home students entering with A-levels.
Indian students constitute a significant portion of international students in the UK, with a substantial 54% increase in sponsored study visas granted to Indian students in 2023 compared to the previous year, as reported by the Home Office.
The upcoming academic session is expected to witness over three lakh Indian students enrolling in UK universities. Reports indicate a remarkable growth in the number of Indian students at Durham University, mentioned in the Sunday Times report, with a surge of over 200% to 340 students in the past four years.
(With Agency Inputs)