English UK members have had a wide-ranging discussion about the problems facing the ELT sector with Liberal Democrat MPs and peers at a specially-organised dinner in the House of Commons.
During a lively session, English UK chief executive Tony Millns explained the value of the English language sector and international students to the UK economy and outlined the difficulties being caused by the Coalition's desire to cut migrant numbers.
He pointed out that the current regime was damaging legitimate and quality colleges and sending a message round the world that students were not welcome in the UK. These problems were, he said, being compounded by the costly new inspection regime and there was a very real risk that universities would go bankrupt as a result of the flow of international students from language schools being cut. Another problem, he said, was in the way that the UK rigorously counted students on courses of over a year as migrants in a way that other nations did not.
Also taking part in the debate were Sue Edwards, Chair of English UK, Graham Simpson, principal of the Oxford English Centre, Rebecca Willis of the Eastbourne School of English, and Sarah Greatorex, principal of the Colchester English Study Centre. They explained the very real practical difficulties schools are experiencing with the current cap on CAS numbers. They expressed worries that the message is going out that the UK is not open for business, and that students are being encouraged to go elsewhere.
Liberal Democrats present included Stephen Lloyd, MP for Eastbourne, Martin Horwood, MP for Cheltenham, Annette Brooke, MP for Mid-Dorset and North Poole, and Baroness Sally Hamwee, who is the Liberal Democrat co-chair of the Home Affairs policy committee in the House of Lords.
Others providing expert input into the discussion included Chris Nicholson, Chief Executive and Director of CentreForum, a think-tank which has published reports on the international education sector, and Rob McNeill of the Migration Observatory at Oxford University.