The UK Home Office recently removed a nationwide survey distributed by universities designed to assess the impact of international students on the country after it was donned “racist” and “unethical.”
The survey was put together by the Migration Advisory Committee (Mac) after being commissioned by the Home Office.
Many professionals working in higher education widely criticised the survey, claiming it was “an open invitation” to hate and racism, segregating international students into an ‘us and them’ situation.
The survey’s methodology also came under heavy fire, with academics claiming it was “fatally flawed”. The survey could be completed by anyone, as many times as they liked – in theory – and was said to contain “loaded” questions designed to spread racism.
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
— Universities UK (@UniversitiesUK) May 17, 2018
Mac responded, defending the survey, stating it was “not designed to be discriminatory”, according to the Independent. The survey has since been taken down.
The survey asked students to detail their opinions on the social and economic impact international students have on their university and the UK on the whole.
Students were asked to what degree international students had an impact on their social experience of university from “entirely positive” to “entirely negative.”
The survey was met with backlash on Twitter as lecturers all over the country posted their outrage at the racism.
Is this a real survey? Really badly designed and also racist. Asking home students whether international students have had a ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ impact on their experience is not something UUK should be promoting! https://t.co/mkHtFewpRf
— Em Nunn (@EBNunn) May 16, 2018
Northumbria University History Professor Tanja Bueltmann wrote:
“It’s a bit like with Tripadvisor, you’re more likely to fill it in if you’ve had a bad experience.”
She added that the survey is “unquestionably” full of “loaded/leading questions that force respondents to problematise international students in a way that they may never have naturally done.”
Bueltmann finished by saying if she had submitted it for a research project, she would “be in trouble” with the university ethics committee.
— UnisResistBorders #WearAMask #BordersKillKnowledge (@UnisNotBorders) May 16, 2018
“With the best will in the world no expert, no social scientist I know, would ever have approved this. My ethics committee at work would not have approved this.”
Senior Lecturer in Cultural and Creative Industries at King’s College London Ruth Adams also criticised the survey on Twitter, stating it was appalling “the survey is open and public.”
“So not only fatally methodologically flawed (this wouldn’t get past any university research guidelines or ethical committee) but is essentially an open invitation for any racist with a beef to vent. Hostile environment indeed.”
The Migration Advisory Committee have been commissioned by the Home Office to survey students on the 'impact' of international students on their experience. As if it were not bad enough to 'other' international students, the survey is open and public, so not only fatally 1/2
— Ruth Adams (@drfancygrrl) May 16, 2018
methodologically flawed (this wouldn't get past any university research guidelines or ethical committee), but is essentially an open invitation for any racist with a beef to vent. Hostile environment indeed. 2/2
— Ruth Adams (@drfancygrrl) May 16, 2018
One academic, St Andrews Film Researcher Shruti Narayanswamy, pointed out the “poorly designed” survey didn’t address the problem.
“How can individual respondents asses the “impact” of international students?” she said. “Have you asked international student[s] what impact [the] hostile environment has had on them?”
After viewing and acknowledging the public’s opinions on the matter, Mac withdrew their survey, stating it was now useless.
Fantastic new. This potentially hostile & racist survey has been withdrawn in the past 24 hours. It would have never been valid anyway as the questions were very leading & anyone could complete it, even if they were not a student.https://t.co/n3p4eXj82V https://t.co/ZxvMjPIewb
— Siobhan Tatum (@BarChat_Siobhan) May 18, 2018
“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,” a spokesperson for Mac said.
“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.”
Mac is an independent public body which advises the UK government on issues involving migration. Currently, Mac is working with the Home Office to investigate the impact of international students in the UK and this survey was just one part of the research.