With immigration and university standards hot issues, any impropriety involving recruiters abroad could tar the sector
As fishing trips go, sending an undercover reporter to trawl international student recruitment agencies until someone said something dodgy was probably the equivalent of pointing a shotgun into a small barrel.
That is not to deny that The Daily Telegraph‘s sting last week raised legitimate questions, but since the Chinese agent who claimed to be able to secure places at UK universities for candidates with below-par grades provided no evidence that this had actually happened, it was perhaps surprising that the newspaper devoted its first three pages to the story.
So why such a splash? One factor that has been highlighted is that factions within the Conservative Party continue to brief hard against the international student boom as they grapple with what appear to be unachievable immigration reduction targets.
Certainly the Home Office is sticking to its guns on the visa restrictions, and last week’s story played strongly to this agenda, as did the erroneous suggestion that international students are taking places away from home students (they are not).
Of course, for a national newspaper it was a good scoop, and conspiracy theories about any direct involvement from government are almost certain to be just that.