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Does money make the university world go around?

In a recently published paper in its Outcomes from institutional audit-series, the UK Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) finds much achievement but also some negative development. The Arrangements for international students-paper shows the extent to which the student body in some institutions has been internationalised. Many institutions are taking more than 10 percent of their students from overseas, and some (mostly in London) recruit more than 30 percent of their students from outside the UK. The paper also highlights concerns on the part of audit teams that the number of international students was being increased in an unsustainable fashion in some institutions.

After the publication of the report, head of the QAA, Peter Williams, warned that Britain's universities are becoming increasingly over-reliant on fees from overseas students. He added that some foreign students believed they just had to pay fees to get a degree. Reviewing the findings of the paper Williams called for consultations on how institutions can best provide themselves with reliable information on the effects of their assessment practices, the comparability of honours degrees, and on sustainable practices for the recruitment of international students. It also notes recommendations in the report linked to the need for institutions, particularly small and specialist institutions, to give greater attention to English language support for international students, including postgraduate, taught and research students.

Williams also counselled against the growing practice of universities using agents to recruit foreign students instead of carrying out interviews themselves, as it "could mean lowering standards". The warning comes after a senior academic, Professor Geoffrey Alderman, warned that universities were turning a "blind eye" to plagiarism by international students because they needed their fee income.

QQA report