Home Office-sponsored analysis on adopted acceptance is withdrawn

A Home Office-sponsored survey that asked students how many of their friends at university were from overseas has been axed after criticism that it was flawed and open to abuse.

The survey by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), as part of its inquiry into the impact of international students, was circulated to students by British universities earlier this week. But the survey quickly drew criticism that it was vulnerable to manipulation, with any internet user able to access the survey and respond multiple times.

The online address for the survey was replaced by a note explaining that it had been terminated.

“Following online commentary it has become apparent to us that we will be unable to use the responses to the survey to draw any conclusions. We have therefore taken the decision to withdraw the survey,” the MAC said in a statement.

“The survey had the potential to show a very positive view of international students in the UK but cannot now be used to add to our evidence base.”

Academics also criticised the survey for its poor design, with respondents asked to rate their interactions with international or UK students on a scale running from “wholly negative” to “wholly positive”.

Respondents were also asked how readily they mixed with other students of different nationalities, including whether they socialised or shared accommodation with UK or non-UK students, and in what proportions.

One of the questions was: “How many of your friends are international students?” with a range of responses from “all of them” to “none of them”.

Alexandra Bulat, a researcher at University College London who studies attitudes towards EU migrants in the UK, tweeted: “I am sorry but your survey is methodologically poor and the results will be unfit to inform policy.”

Other academics said the survey’s design would not have passed scrutiny by a university ethics committee, while others reported being able to submit multiple entries with little effort.

Some universities sent links to the survey to their students, and encouraged them to take part. An email sent by Birkbeck, University of London, said: “Your response to this survey is important, and all responses are confidential and will be anonymised.”

The survey had been circulated on social media by several vice-chancellors and by the Universities UK group, which later withdrew its support after the flaws became apparent.

Universities UK
(@UniversitiesUK)

Due to legitimate concerns raised about a Migration Advisory Committee survey on international students, we will not be sharing it further. While it's important that policy makers hear from students about international students' positive impact, views must be sought appropriately


May 17, 2018

An MAC spokesperson said the survey was part of the committee’s Home Office-commissioned study looking at the economic and social impact of international students in the UK.

“The survey was designed with the help of experts and it is absolutely untrue to claim the survey is intended to influence respondents in a certain way,” the spokesperson told Research Professional.