Monday’s Daily Mail featured the claim that “26 per cent of the non-EU students given permission to attend [private further or higher education] colleges go on to flout the rules.”
In the House of Commons that afternoon, the Minister went into slightly more detail, saying: “We have also discovered by researching the figures that in some sectors of the education world—especially private sector further education colleges—26% of students are not complying with the visas with which they entered the country. That means that tens of thousands of students are breaking the rules in some way each year.”
Full Fact has been chasing a copy of the research since Monday morning but the Home Office refused to release it before the publication today of its consultation on student visa reform, shielding it from public scrutiny. This despite the figures being quoted to both press and parliament.
We have already written today about how this may have breached the law on pre-release access to official statistics but 24 hours after we first asked the Home Office to explain why the figures were used before public release we have received no response.
Having after many attempts secured a copy of the research, we now know that the Minister’s comments, both as reported in the Daily Mail and in his own words in the House of Commons, make the 26 per cent sound like something it is not.
The missing point in the Minister’s remarks is that the 26 per cent figure is based on a sample of “institutions which have been subject to a roll-call check by the UK Border Agency because there are concerns over suspected abuse.”
The report itself says “These percentages should be considered the maximum potential estimate of non-compliance, as the coverage for those leaving the UK and the focus of roll-call investigations mean that the actual levels of non-compliance are likely to be lower.”
Only two pages of the report are about this issue. They conclude by saying that: “Although this study was not able to look at all students across a fully representative sample of institutions, and for the technical reasons outlined cannot identify actual levels of non-compliance, it does provide an indication of the relative risk of non-compliance across the four types of educational institutions.”
That is not how it has been presented in the press or to Parliament.
We have asked the Home Office to comment but had not received a response at the time of publication. As we are still waiting for a response to an enquiry on this subject from 24 hours ago, we did not feel able to delay publication further.
We believe it would be appropriate for the Immigration Minister to clarify what the statistics he quoted actually pertain to, both in the Mail and in the House of Commons.
Photo credit: Slleong