In this discussion of amendments to the Higher Education and Research Bill on this date Lord Bilimoria contributed several times. Each contribution is detailed below. He addresses the point about part-time and lifelong learning from his own experience discussing how various universities operate in this area and concludes with the hoped that the bill will encourage part-time learning and learning throughout a person’s lifetime. His second contribution asks for a reassurance that the Bill covers diversity, especially those from an ethnic minority, and he asks whether  enough is being done to promote access through the Bill.  In his third contribution Lord Bilimoria voiced his support for the amendments and stressed the positive effect of international students to the UK as well as the need to remove them from the net migration figures.

Higher Education and Research Bill

11 January 2017

Moved by: Baroness Garden

Discussing multiple Amendments which deal with the subject of part-time and lifelong learning. In his first contribution he a

Lord Bilimoria: First Contribution

My Lords, I shall address the point about part-time and lifelong learning, and speak from my own experience. When I qualified as a chartered accountant, with a degree from India, and with a law degree from Cambridge, I thought that I had had enough education for ever. Then I was introduced to lifelong learning by going to business school and engaging in executive education, which I have since done at Cranfield School of Management, the London Business School and the Harvard Business School. I remember President Clinton saying, “The more you learn, the more you earn”, and one can try to vouch for that.

The encouragement of lifelong learning is so important—it does not stop. Then there is access to lifelong learning for those who missed out on it, for whatever reason. I was the youngest university chancellor in the country when I was made chancellor of Thames Valley University, now the University of West London. At that university, which is one of the modern universities, a huge proportion of the students were mature students and learning part-time. You cannot equate a university such as that with an Oxford or a Cambridge. It is a completely different model, offering access and focusing on—and promoting the concept of—lifelong learning, mature students and part-time learning. Sadly, the funding for part-time learning needs to be looked at, but it is not a matter for this Bill.

At the other extreme, at the traditional universities, we have MBAs—masters in business administration—which are very popular around the world, but nowadays we also have executive MBAs. The executive MBA programme is getting more and more popular at top business schools around the world, including in our country —I am the chair of the Cambridge Judge Business School. It is part-time learning at the highest level.

I hope that the Bill will address this and encourage part-time learning and learning throughout one’s lifetime. Amendment 41 refers to,

“including access to part-time study and lifelong learning”.

In fact, I would encourage it; it is crucial.

Second Contribution, moved by Lord Steveson: 

Discussing the issue of access in the Bill

Lord Bilimoria:

My Lords, may I request that the Minister reassures us that, when we talk about access, the Bill covers diversity and, in particular, ethnic minority children and students coming to universities? I saw the importance of this for myself at Cambridge University, when we started a summer course called GEEMA. The ethnic minority students who attended the course came primarily from families who had no previous university experience. I remember giving out the certificates for one of the first courses, when 60 students from all over the country attended and were mentored by ethnic minority undergraduate students already at the university. Of the 60, many not only went on to university, but went on to the University of Cambridge. Programmes such as this are very effective; are we doing enough to promote that access through the Bill?

Third Contribution, moved by Lord Sutherland:

Discussing an amendment which he states has the two themes of transparency and accountability.

Lord Bilimoria:

My Lords, I support the amendments in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and the noble Baroness, Lady Garden. I start by declaring my interest as a third-generation former international student in this country: both my grandfathers, my mother and I were, and now my son is, at Cambridge University.

The benefits that international students bring to this country and to our universities are enormous and priceless. It is our biggest element of soft power. There are 30 world leaders at any one time who have been educated at British universities. Generation-long links are built and, most importantly, the international students enrich the experience of our domestic students and universities. Then of course there is the money: directly and indirectly, £14 billion is brought in by international students to our universities and they create employment for 130,000 people. Yet every single time the issue has been debated in this Chamber, we have had unanimous consensus except from the Minister responding. A straight bat is played back to us, with a no.

The country does not think that international students are immigrants. The public do not mind international students staying on and working for a while after they finish their studies. This wretched referendum has brought immigration together into one bad thing and the Government insist on categorising international students as immigrants. There may be a UN definition, but when you come to calculate your net migration figures, you do not have to include international students as migrants. Our competitor countries—the United States, Australia and Canada—do not include them.

Statistics are available to show that international students, on the whole, return to their countries; those statistics are not being released. Can the Minister tell us why? I believe these figures show that only 1.5% of international students, if that—it may be 1,500—overstay and do not go back. We have removed the exit checks from our borders, so we do not know who has left our country. We should be scanning every passport, EU and non-EU, into and out of this country. We should introduce visible exit checks at our ports and borders immediately; we would then have that information at our fingertips and we should release it.

I declare an interest as president of UKCISA, the UK Council for International Student Affairs, which represents the 450,000 international students at all our educational institutions in this country. We despair that these students who bring this benefit to this country are not acknowledged. In fact, the perception that this creates is terrible. I know for a fact that Jo Johnson, the Minister for Universities, is very supportive of international students. I have seen that personally. He is here and I thank him for his support, which I know is genuine. However, I am sorry to be very personal but we have a Prime Minister who, when she was Home Secretary, said that every international student should leave the day that they graduated. The headlines in India were, “Take our money and get out”. That is the perception created.

I have had the Australian high commissioner to India say to me, “What are you doing with your attitude to international students? We have a Minister for International Students in Australia and we welcome them. In fact, if they want to stay on and pass through all the filters, they are welcome because they have paid for their education and will benefit our economy. On the other hand, you are turning them away and turning them to us, for which we are very grateful”. We are being made a laughing stock. There is an increase in international students around the world of 8% a year from countries such as India. As our former Prime Minister David Cameron said, we are in a global race. Well, we are not in that race if this is the attitude and perception that we give out.

If the Prime Minister is not willing to listen and if, sadly, the perception of immigration is so bad that the good people who visit this country—the tourists, business visitors and international students, and in fact the migrants who benefit this country over the generations, and without whom we would not be the successful country we are and the fifth-largest economy in the world—are not appreciated, then the only way to address this is through legislation. An amendment would say, “We must declare and detail the actual benefits and contributions of international students at our universities”. It is the only way that the Government will listen, and if they continue to include international students in the net migration figures then the amendment coming up in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, is the only way that we will be able to address this. We will do that down the line and say, “Let’s legislate that they should be excluded when counting net migration figures”. This is very important because it goes to our soft power, to the impression we create around the world as a country and to our economy and universities. It is part of what has made our universities the best in the world and this country so wonderful.

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