The NUS has made some criticisms of our recent paper which do not stand up to scrutiny.
Their first point was that the countries listed in the pilot do not represent the wider student body. Quite so. That is why our calculation was explicitly confined to those countries included in the Home Office pilot and we made it clear that our figure of 63,000 referred only to these countries. It is, of course, quite possible that there were an additional number of bogus students who entered from countries that did not feature in the pilot.
The NUS also claimed that we should have used a weighted average taking into account the proportions of students studying in further education, universities, higher education and private colleges. However, there is no evidence to suggest that the students selected for the pilot differed from the wider student applicant population in their choice of institution. Nor would such an exercise be possible as the Home Office does not disaggregate visa data by type of institution so there is no way of knowing what proportion of the 2011 visa grants were for study at universities, public institutions or private colleges.
This point is part of a wider question as to whether the applicants interviewed in the pilot were an accurate representation of the whole body of student applicants from those countries. The pilot sought to sample students deemed both high risk and low risk. They sought a 60:40 breakdown of high to low risk students. However in 8 of the 14 posts they failed to identify a sufficient number of low risk students to participate in the pilot. This suggests that the risk profile of those in the pilot does reflect the wider student applicant population in the countries concerned. It is also possible, depending on how actively low risk applicants were sought out for the pilot, that the wider student applicant population actually has a higher proportion of high risk applicants than those involved in the pilot .
We remain of the view that our estimate of the number of bogus students who may have entered the UK in 2011 from this group of countries is not only entirely reasonable but may well be an underestimate.
As regards the press, we obviously cannot control how they cover our papers, still less the headlines that they choose. Nevertheless the headline in the Evening Standard of 24 July “Illegal workers could count for almost half of overseas students” was particularly misleading and we have therefore removed it from our website.
We will continue to deal with any plausible points that might be raised but we see no purpose in a “debate” with an organisation that so readily descends into abuse.
 Bangladesh, Burma, China, India, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria and Sri Lanka.