Having waited six months for a reply to my FOI request for the names of providers who have left the Tier 4 Register – the number that ministers claim were bogus colleges – I wrote to the Home Secretary.
Outlining my issue about the use of the number of providers on the Tier 4 Register, I asked if her office could facilitate compliance with the data protection act (after all, non-compliance with the sponsors duties would be a sure-fire way of getting bumped off the Tier 4 Register).
As you’d hope, something happened. After all those months, on 28 March I had a response from the Home Office with the information.
I’ve also now had a reply to my letter to Amber Rudd, which is a such a classic non-reply, non-apology, letter that you’d be a curmudgeon not to be pleased as the standards of the modern British Civil Service.
Then, the issues about ministerial use of the number removed from the Register is non-answered by reference to the data being in an live operational database (more on that to follow).
Finally, I get the ‘brightest and best’ line, the good news there is no cap (even though the Home Secretary had herself mooted a reduction in numbers) and the better news that the ‘Government has no plans to limit any institution’s ability to recruit international students’ (although that’s exactly what the Home Secretary had said they would consider). This is the crux: the Home Office can’t handle the contradiction that if there’s a target to reduce met migration, and students are in the net migration figures, then there must be a target to reduce student numbers.
The easiest way to remove students from net migration is not to stop counting them (as Christopher Howarth had complained about) but to be very clear that they don’t contribute to the net part of net migration which the want to reduce. People come on a student visa, and then they stop being on a student visa. If the Home Office don’t know what happens to them, then that is really an argument for sorting that out.
But, phew. The Government has “no plans to limit any institution’s ability to recruit international students”. They can accept the Hannay amendment to the HE Bill, and we’ll hear nothing more about this, All that’s left is for me to do some pedantry about the numbers of ‘bogus colleges’…