I have blogged before about the recent disappointing Migration Advisory Committee report on international students.

Like many others, I had assumed it would be more helpful to the higher education sector than it turned out to be.

But this should not be the end of the road because there is a strong case for thinking the results of the MAC review reflect the imperfect processes more than the quality of the evidence submitted.

There are good ways and bad ways to run officially-commissioned independent reviews of government policy. Below is a list of how not to do it.

  1. Letting the body that owns the policy under review handpick the consultation panel
  2. Rigging the collection of your own evidence
  3. Misusing evidence available from others
  4. Ignoring the most substantial evidence received
  5. Pretending fairly straightforward policy challenges are nearly impossible
  6. Running a second big review of wider interest simultaneously
  7. Failing to host oral evidence sessions
  8. Spinning the results to your most favourable media outlets in advance of publication
  9. Avoiding opportunities for others to engage with the review panel after publication
  10. Publishing the results just before the party conference season, averting everyone’s gaze

Sadly, as the links above help to show, the MAC fell into every single one of these holes.

Policymaking is not rocket science, but the quality of the processes really matter. With the benefit of hindsight, it is clear the MAC processes led in one direction.