Aberdeen University 'complained to partner firm about quality of some international students'

Ancient university says 97 per cent of students who complete pathway courses are offered chance to study for degree

Aberdeen University complained about the quality of international students being recruited by a partner firm, it has been claimed.

A report in The Sunday Times alleged the Scottish institution was among three to raise concerns with Study Group, alongside Leeds and Dublin universities. The company partners with many universities across the UK and around the world, organising “pathway courses” for international students, who pay high fees.

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A former employee at the firm told the newspaper that entry qualifications for such pathway courses were often set very low to make them attractive to as many foreign students as possible.

Aberdeen University King's College buildingAberdeen University King's College building
Aberdeen University King's College building

The source claimed academics at universities subsequently faced difficulties getting the students to degree standard.

"The lecturers are losing sleep and are having to go above and beyond," the source said. "They are used to students who are dedicated and have intellectual curiosity. Now they're spoon-feeding these students and hand-holding them.”

The claim was not specifically about Aberdeen University. However, the report said Aberdeen, Leeds and Dublin universities had raised concerns with Study Group about the quality of students.

Aberdeen University’s website states that Study Group is the owner and provider of the University of Aberdeen International Study Centre, which offers “university preparation programmes”.

It also says 97 per cent of students who completed their pathway programme at Aberdeen International Study Centre were offered progression to a degree course at Aberdeen University in 2023.

As well as the International Study Centre, Aberdeen University also has a partnership with a college in Qatar. The Scotsman revealed last year that university bosses had spent almost £200,000 on flights to Qatar in the past five years – and more than £50,000 on hotels.

The claims relating to Study Group come amid concern that Scottish and UK universities are increasingly reliant on the fees of international students to help balance the books.

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Last month, an investigation by The Scotsman found international students were more likely than Scots to be offered places to study in most subject areas at Edinburgh and St Andrews universities.

At Edinburgh, the offer rate – the percentage of applications which result in an offer – is higher for international students in almost three-quarters of arts, humanities and social sciences courses, including nearly every subject area at Edinburgh College of Art and the School of History, Classics and Archaeology.

And international students, who pay annual fees of up to £35,000, were twice as likely as middle-class Scots to be offered a place on more than a dozen courses at Edinburgh.

Scottish students do not pay fees and their numbers are capped by the Holyrood Government. Universities say international student recruitment has no impact on the number of places for Scots.

Study Group said: "The decision to admit students to degrees rests solely with our university partners as for all students. Study Group recruits students from a wide range of backgrounds and nationalities – the requirement for admission into our pathway programmes is a demonstrated ability to succeed academically on our courses in line with published entry requirements."

Aberdeen University declined to comment.



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