Mark made the following contributions to a debate on the Higher Education & Research Bill:
Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con)
The hon. Lady has made a strong case for why she feels post-study work visas should be reintroduced. Does she accept that one of the main reasons for a clampdown by the UK Government is that a number of people come in on these visas and then simply go to ground, and they cannot be removed from this country even though they are here only on a student visa? In making the case that these visas should be reintroduced, will she tell us a little about the further obligations she thinks should be on the universities granting them? They surely cannot simply get students in, take the money and then wash their hands of any responsibility.
The hon. Gentleman will know that I entirely accept his last point about a number of these postgraduate courses. In an ideal world, as he knows, I would not have students in the immigration figures, but we are where we are and they will remain in those figures. Surely one of the lessons of Brexit is that this issue is of massive concern to many of our fellow countrymen. Therefore, it is incumbent on universities to ensure that we get high-quality students from abroad, and that is really the focus of what the Government are trying to achieve here. We need to ensure that those students who come here are the crème de la crème and will add the sort of experience to which he referred earlier in his contribution. By having a group of high-quality students, we will command the confidence of the public that we are getting only the brightest and the best, rather than a volume operation in our universities.
I applaud the Minister’s view that we should focus on quality in the sector, rather than just volume, which is one of the problems that has beset the higher education sector in the past 20 or so years. Is there any international parallel for the OFS? Does such a body exist in Canada, Australia or other big global higher education sectors? Are we taking a lead, or following elements of what has happened elsewhere?