Lord Waldegrave discusses the impact of Brexit and immigration on UK universities22 March 2017
Lord Waldegrave on North Hill has called on the Home Office to make students exempt from the calculation of the number of migrants entering the UK.
Addressing members of the Council and Senate at the University of Reading for the first time since he took over as Chancellor in December, the former Conservative cabinet minister said the UK should join the US, Canada and Australia in removing students from its net migration data.
Lord Waldegrave said: "There was once a problem of bogus language schools, significant numbers of whose non-students disappeared into the undergrowth. All the evidence is that the problem has been dealt with.
"The Home Office should declare victory and remove students from the figures of migration. They are a huge and beneficial resource not only for the universities themselves, but for the country, not a problem about whom the electorate or anyone else is fretting."
The former Bristol West MP said it was a ‘challenging and exciting' time to take over as Chancellor, with the government soon to trigger Article 50 to begin the process of leaving the European Union.
He called Brexit ‘by far the greatest and most comprehensive challenge' to universities, with a risk that it may hinder the internationally outstanding reputation that UK higher education institutions have become known for.
He said: "One of the sectors in Britain which most wholeheartedly embraced the opportunities offered by the European Union was our university and research community.
"To the immense benefit not only of the United Kingdom, but, I think we can say without danger of hubris, to the benefit of Europe and the wider world too, British universities and researchers were the biggest winners in terms of participation in European networks and in success in applications for European funds."
He added he would be seeking ‘absolutely crystal clear reassurance' about the position of European staff and students at the University of Reading, as well as UK university access to European research and student exchange networks, as early as possible in the negotiations.
Ultimately, Lord Waldegrave said he was optimistic that both the UK and EU would gain if negotiations went positively.
Teaching Excellence Framework
Speaking of the Teaching Excellence Framework, Lord Waldegrave said he believed the Government was wrong to use student satisfaction, in the form of the National Student Survey, as a marker of teaching quality, as the two did not always go hand in hand. However, he added that he believed it was right for the Government to look to ensure teaching quality did not suffer due to the pursuit of research excellence.
Lord Waldegrave served as a Conservative MP from 1979 to 1997, including 16 years as a minister. He held the positions of Minister of Agriculture, Chief Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of State for Health, and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster with responsibility for the Civil Service Reform and Science.
Lord Waldegrave was speaking at the annual meeting of the University of Reading Court on Monday evening (20 March). It was attended by individuals and organisations from outside the University, including the Mayor of Reading, Cllr Mohammed Ayub.