For this week’s dose of Higher Education sector news, we look at the Government’s role in maintaining sustainable research funding, and the pushback against Theresa May’s international student and immigration targets. Read on to find out more…
Transparency in research funding: are international students shouldering the burden?
The UK likes to punch above its weight when it comes to research output. However, a new paper published by HEPI highlights the dependence of research outputs on student tuition surplus. The report, entitled: “How much is too much? Cross-subsidies from teaching to research in British universities” discusses the consistent deficit to research funding, that is filled with cross-subsidies from other income sources. One of these sources is, most notably, international students who are charged higher fees and shouldering the burden. According to the report:
“On average, over the duration of their degree, each non-EU student contributes over £8,000 to UK research.”
Data from the publicly available report, UK’s Transparent Approach to Costing, indicates that expenditure on research and development is below that of competitors. The takeaway? Perhaps the current setup for research funding is too dependent on cross subsidiaries and not sustainable in the long-term.
As Nick Hilman notes in the forward (and the author reaffirms in the conclusion and when drawing upon Australian funding), cross-subsidies are an inevitable consequence for large universities. However, the report drives home responsibility that the UK Government has to ensure research is sustainable:
“For the Conservative Government to meet their target of spending 3% of GDP on research and development, assuming contributors continue to pay in their current proportions, all sectors must contribute by increasing their investment in the UK research base by almost 80% or about £6.3 billion per year.”
Amber Rudd ‘urges removal’ of students from UK net migration target
During the passing of the Higher Education and Research Bill this April, the government rejected an amendment calling for students to be removed from the migration target. That bill, in addition to the exaggeration of international student numbers, has highlighted the threats posed to student migration, by this government.
However, Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, is now leading a Cabinet move against an increasingly isolated Theresa May. Rudd is reported to be pushing for international students to be removed from the government’s target in order to reduce net migration. It is likely that Rudd wishes to avoid party defeat when the Commons considers a bill to set up a post-Brexit immigration regime. The move by Rudd is likely to be championed by universities.
“Ms Rudd enjoys cabinet support from colleagues including Philip Hammond, the chancellor, Boris Johnson the foreign secretary, and Greg Clark, the business secretary, who believe foreign students should be welcomed to the country.”
Around this time last year, Rudd announced fresh restrictions on overseas students including two-tier visa rules affecting poorer quality universities and courses, a crackdown on work visas, and the introduction of a fund to control UK migration. While some markets have responded to visa changes, international students remain strong contributors to the UK Higher Education sector.