Chalk Talk: The curious incident of the disappearing overseas students

To Keele University for the annual conference of Universities UK – the umbrella body representing all vice-chancellors.

The conference was dominated by the aftermath of the controversial decision by the UK Border Agency to revoke the licence of London Metropolitan University to teach international students, thus threatening more than 2,000 bona fide overseas students with deportation if they cannot find an alternative course within three months. There were some ameliorative words from Universities Minister David Willetts for the assembled gathering: student figures would be disaggregated from the overall immigration figures in future and a closer eye would be kept on how many of them had left the country once they had completed their studies. In addition, a £2million rescue fund would help the 2,000 or so bona fide students with any costs they incurred from switching courses.

Not enough, was the collective cry of the vice-chancellors, who were still left mystified by the decision and could not help wondering why it would not have been possible to have identified the bona fide students and allowed them to continue with their courses, while stopping LMU – if it was thought necessary – from recruiting any more overseas students.

Meanwhile, Mr Willetts left them with the thought that perhaps they should ponder what they would do if another of their members fell foul of the UK Border Agency. Let us hope not.

I hope it is just a frivolous suggestion – but one of Michael Gove's friendliest newspapers was suggesting at the weekend that the new tough exam he plans to replace GCSEs with will not be called the O-level but the Gove-level.

He should heed the warning of what happened to Kenneth (now Lord) Baker who went down this route when he organised five days a year in-service training for teachers which were henceforth known as "Baker Days". Unfortunately, the moniker was then shortened by teachers so they were known as "B Days" or "bidets".

Any suggestions out there as to an appropriate short form for the Gove-level?

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