It has been an interesting week. We have grappled with the apparent outcome of the government’s student number policy, we have struggled to understand whether disaggregating international students from net migration figures will really make a difference. As an academic exercise these are fascinating, layered as they are with perverse incentives and a range of consequences both intended and unintended. Wider public perceptions about higher education and related issues matter because politicians care about what voters think. In HE, there is a growing imbalance between the priorities of the sector and societal attitudes that must be better understood by universities and policy makers alike.