Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read comment pieces from this morning's papers.

1. Why Iain Duncan Smith is no longer a quiet man but a dangerous one (Guardian)

His response to the damning NAO report on universal credit shows that he appears to rely on his gut feeling rather than facts, says Marina Hyde.

2. The west needs a replacement for the warrior spirit (Financial Times) (£)

Warfare and welfare have long been connected, writes Mark Mazower.

3. False feminists want to make abortion harder (Times) (£)

There is no ‘gendercide’ problem with baby girls in Britain, just the agenda of anti-choice zealots, argues Janice Turner.

4. Syria crisis: The teetering balance of power has whole region on edge (Independent)

Israel’s position is firmly based on its own self-interests, writes Patrick Cockburn.

5. How’s the economy? Don’t ask economists (Times) (£)

The recent good news may be welcome but it certainly wasn’t predicted by a slew of so-called experts, says Matthew Parris.

6. What next for our 'small island’ and its dwindling Armed Forces? (Telegraph)

Our political leaders’ cloying rhetoric masks a confusion about what Britain is fighting for, writes Charles Moore.

7. Ed Miliband's tormentors ignore the constraints of leadership (Guardian)

His critics show a wilful misunderstanding of what it means to lead the opposition and the responsibilities it brings, says Steve Richards.

8. Memo to our leaders: real men take responsibility (Independent)

The people of Britain are heartily sick of macho posturing on the part of public figures, argues Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.

9. One signature by Assad could help to avert the bombing (Times) (£)

Getting him to sign the chemical weapons convention is an alternative to war, says Gabrielle Rifkind.

10. Gordon Brown is right – but for all the wrong reasons (Telegraph)

The former Labour leader came out of purdah to argue against the SNP, says Graeme Archer.

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Sooner or later, a British university is going to go bankrupt

Theresa May's anti-immigration policies will have a big impact - and no-one is talking about it. 

The most effective way to regenerate somewhere? Build a university there. Of all the bits of the public sector, they have the most beneficial local effects – they create, near-instantly, a constellation of jobs, both directly and indirectly.

Don’t forget that the housing crisis in England’s great cities is the jobs crisis everywhere else: universities not only attract students but create graduate employment, both through directly working for the university or servicing its students and staff.

In the United Kingdom, when you look at the renaissance of England’s cities from the 1990s to the present day, universities are often unnoticed and uncelebrated but they are always at the heart of the picture.

And crucial to their funding: the high fees of overseas students. Thanks to the dominance of Oxford and Cambridge in television and film, the wide spread of English around the world, and the soft power of the BBC, particularly the World Service,  an education at a British university is highly prized around of the world. Add to that the fact that higher education is something that Britain does well and the conditions for financially secure development of regional centres of growth and jobs – supposedly the tentpole of Theresa May’s agenda – are all in place.

But at the Home Office, May did more to stop the flow of foreign students into higher education in Britain than any other minister since the Second World War. Under May, that department did its utmost to reduce the number of overseas students, despite opposition both from BIS, then responsible for higher education, and the Treasury, then supremely powerful under the leadership of George Osborne.

That’s the hidden story in today’s Office of National Statistics figures showing a drop in the number of international students. Even small falls in the number of international students has big repercussions for student funding. Take the University of Hull – one in six students are international students. But remove their contribution in fees and the University’s finances would instantly go from surplus into deficit. At Imperial, international students make up a third of the student population – but contribute 56 per cent of student fee income.

Bluntly – if May continues to reduce student numbers, the end result is going to be a university going bust, with massive knock-on effects, not only for research enterprise but for the local economies of the surrounding area.

And that’s the trajectory under David Cameron, when the Home Office’s instincts faced strong countervailing pressure from a powerful Treasury and a department for Business, Innovation and Skills that for most of his premiership hosted a vocal Liberal Democrat who needed to be mollified. There’s every reason to believe that the Cameron-era trajectory will accelerate, rather than decline, now that May is at the Treasury, the new department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy doesn’t even have responsibility for higher education anymore. (That’s back at the Department for Education, where the Secretary of State, Justine Greening, is a May loyalist.)

We talk about the pressures in the NHS or in care, and those, too, are warning lights in the British state. But watch out too, for a university that needs to be bailed out before long. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.