A Welsh university has been forced to pull the plug on a plan to enrol students to a London “campus” because it could not attract international students.
The University of South Wales blamed tougher visa restrictions for its decision to back out of a plan to recruit students to its newly set-up London Centre for students in the capital’s docklands.
A few dozen students had expressed interest in signing up for courses but the university decided it could not tap into the lucrative international student market with the higher fees they pay to make the project viable. It is understood to have spent £300,000 on the venture before backing out.
The University of South Wales is one of around 40 higher education institutions in the UK who have either set up a presence or a fully fledged campus in London in the belief international students would prefer to study in London than away from the capital.
The thirteen that have established campuses in the city centre, according to the Quality Assurance Agency - which monitors standards in the UK, are Anglia Ruskin, Bangor, Coventry, Cumbria, East Anglia, Glasgow Caledonian, Glyndwr, Liverpool, Northumbria, South Wales, Sunderland, Ulster and Wales Trinity St David.
Academic sources said that they believed other institutions which had set up in the capital were likely to face similar struggles to recrut internationally. “Other universities must be feeling the pinch over recruiting in London,” said one source.
The Home Office has publicly stated it intends to clamp down on London campuses as a potential source of increased immigration.
In an article last month, former chief of staff to Home secretary Theresa May Nick Timothy said it would not be true to say that universities were “beyond reproach in their recruitment of foreign students”.
Universities “often based hundreds of miles way from the capital” had set up London campuses “to attract foreign students’, many of whom smply want to work in the UK”, he added. “University students should not be off limits to for immigration controls,” he said.
The QAA investigation concluded that the majority of London campuses were “well founded and effectively managed”.
However, it warned there were “areas of potebntial risk” such as using agencies to recruit foreign students and faoling to make sufficient checks on the validity of candidates’ qualifications.
Universities had, too, to consider whether there were adequate safeguards in place to protect students’ interests if the London campus faced closure. “One university that did close its London campus informed all satudents of the decision and gave them the choice the London campus informed all students of the decision and gave them the choice between transferring to the main campus or continuing to be taught in London,” it added.
in the case of the University of South wales, it pulled the plug on the venture before it had actually recruited any student to a course.
A spokesman said: “We had a number of student applications butm having tested thge market, USW dercided not to proceed at this time.
“In part, the business case was based on recruiting international students. However, the UK visa regulations changed in between the decision to start the preoject and the point at which we would have moved to enrol students.“
Universities UK, the body which represents vice-chancellors, said it was unable to comment on the situation.
However, some universities say setting up campuses in London has been a resounding success story. Dr David Pilsbury, deputy vice-chancellor for international development for Coventry, said it had had one of its best-ever years for recruitments with around 1,000 students now enrolled in London for undergraduate and post-graduate degree courses. “Some people are only interested in studying in London,” he added.
Around 40 universities or higher education institutions have a fully fledged campus or a “presence” in London - mainly aimed at attracting international students who would be more impressed by living and studying in London than in one of the regions.
Thirteen have fully fledged campuses, according to a study by the Quality Assurance Agency, the higher education quality watchdog, including:
* Coventry and Northumbria universities whose London operations are both housed near Liverpool Street station - handy for students arriving in the UK at Stansted.
* Bangor University in Gwynedd, north Wales, which offers MBA’s, MA@s and MSc’s in a range of banking and finance courses from a building near Spittalfields Market
* The University of Liverpool, one of the elite Russell group of universities, whose London HQ is in Finsbury Square near Moorgate station.
* Sunderland, which offers mainly MA courses, in Marsh Wall, South quay near Canary Wharf in east London.
Most of the universities looking to enrol postgraduate students at their London campuses. The QAA said that most universities “appear to have carefully considered the implications when making decisions to set up London campuses”. However, it did add that “areas of potential risk” included insufficient checks on student entry qualifications and the use of agents for recruiting international students.