University places not saved for foreigners - don’t believe everything you read in the press

Posted by mjs76 at Aug 23, 2010 05:50 PM |
Sunday Times’ feature on universities is both disingenuous and daft.

Yesterday The Sunday Times ran a story, ‘University places saved for foreigners,’ which made some false and misleading claims about a number of universities, including Leicester. You can’t read it unless you’re a subscriber because of the newspaper’s much-loved paywall but you can get the gist from this piece in today’s Daily Express (How foreign students jump university queue) which basically repeats the original article almost word for word.

This is a complete non-story, parts of it aren’t true and both papers display an ignorance of how the English Higher Education system works.

The allegation, in a nutshell, is that “leading universities … including Bath, Sheffield, Leicester and Cardiff told undercover reporters they would admit a fictitious Russian with A-level grades lower than those demanded of British applicants.”

Obviously we can’t speak for the other universities but we certainly made no formal offer to ‘Sonia Kritova’. We do have a record of a conversation with the daring undercover reporter in question and the hypothetical grades discussed, to study for a BA in French and Spanish, were BBB. Which – guess what? – are the same grades offered to numerous British applicants for the same course.

Like all universities, we have a quota of UK places. When clearing opened last week there were a few left but they were quickly snapped up.

There is a separate, self-imposed quota for overseas students. This fills up slower. In no sense do any of these foreign students ‘take the place’ of UK students.

We did actually explain all the above to the Sunday Times before it went to print, not that they paid any attention. And all of this information is freely available online, so it’s a mystery why the paper employed cloak-and-dagger tactics and dressed the story up as some sort of exposé.

But this was obviously a slow news week so the Sunday Times had nothing to put on its front page except this nonsense and the identity of the man who plays The Stig on Top Gear.