Now here's the thing.
In all the coverage of this afternoon's story especially, there has been far more focus on the headline of 'students having insufficient English language skills' than there has been on the reasons why these students are at UK universities in the first place. More detailed reading of the BBC story gets some of this across but you would be hard pushed to pinpoint that the problem lay elsewhere than at the students' doors.
More than 60% of higher degree students are now from outside the UK.I'm not denying the quality of education available in this country, nor the desirable aditional reasons why people may come to the UK (I'm pro-immigration). But the thing is that universities have caught themselves on a never-ending hook of needing to recruit and make money.
Overseas students have been seen as a lucrative source of revenue - with the Higher Education Policy Institute calculating payments to universities of almost £1.5bn per year in fees plus £2.2bn in living costs.
I'm almost inclined to say this is not the student's fault - they have, in all honesty, come to another country to obtain a qualification. This is surely made in good faith - 'you recruited me, so I must be up to the task'.* Many, but by no means all, are funded by their governments and/or with high expectations from their families for them to achieve. Universities can - and must - justify their recruitment policies by either being far more rigorous in checking language skills in advance or they must be prepared to support students through the consequences: provision of proper language support to get them up to speed once they arrive.
The latter is - just - feasible for undergraduates; for postgraduates, I'm not sure it is or should be. There simply is not time to acquire the level of language skills necessary AND for them to adjust to the acquisition of subject knowledge.
I'd have been happier with something that put the headline on university recruitment - with some limited emphasis with what tutors are expected to do in terms of assessments once the poor students are in through the door. The headlines we actually got instead seemed to see the students coming here as the problem, rather than the universities' own policies and procedures. Because the people at the sharp end - the tutors faced with the students in the class - cannot be pushed into the firing line on this: they're merely following what they are demanded to do. I even have sympathy with those staff who get lumbered with recruitment posts (they often don't stick around for long - you may travel the globe but you never get to see any of it and you have to toe and maintain the party line regardless. It's a soulless task.) What drives them are the targets, the expectations to keep bumping the income stream, to maintain that international profile at all costs. In the end of course, all this will inevitably backfire, especially as 'anonymous' stories like this one come forward. Pity the poor students...
* Oh, that this were even just restricted to the recruitment of international students..