Migration Figures to Continue Including International Students
Despite recent growing pressure from MPs and university heads, the government announced yesterday that international students will continue to be counted in migration statistics.
International students are currently counted in the immigration figures used by the British government, meaning that students are included in the government's pledge to reduce immigration by "tens of thousands". It was in part due to this classification that the tighter visa restrictions were introduced over a year ago, and ever since, a growing number of prominent figures have questioned the wisdom of such a system.
There is the strong argument that placing students within the immigration figures is not only illogical, but gives the false impression that Britain has a cap on international students. The latest group to put this case forward to the government was the Commons Business, Innovation and Skills committee report on overseas students and net migration, which argued:
"The inclusion of overseas students at accredited institutions in the overall total is misleading. Furthermore, it runs the risk of undermining a world class export market."
However, in response, the government insisted that they would continue to use the current definition of net migration- anyone "changing their normal place of residence for 12 months or more", including students. The statement continued, emphasising:
"Eliminating the abuse of student migration route which has occurred in recent years, primarily in the private college sector, is a key part of [reducing immigration]."
There was at least a nod towards the benefits of international students and the importance of making Britain attractive to them, with the report stressing that the government will "place no cap on the number of genuine students coming from across the world to study here".
Decision "Disappointing" and "Not Justified"
A number of figures in higher education have expressed their concern at the government's response. Universities UK president Eric Thomas claimed that the response "was not justified by the evidence", before adding:
"The government's decision to ignore the recommendations of five parliamentary committees that students should not be included in the government's net migration target is disappointing."
General Secretary of the academics' union, UCU, Sally Hunt also spoke up in favour of the report arguing:
"International students bring social and economic benefits to the country and the government could have sent a bold message today that British universities are open for business. Sadly, it is once again pandering to a domestic audience in a desperate effort to sound tough on immigration."
Letters to Theresa May
NUS International Students Officer Daniel Stevens also weighed in to the argument, urging international students to write to Home Secretary Theresa May:
"Since taking office the coalition government have continually treated international students as a political football so now we're asking people to contact the Home Office and give them the yellow card...The government must now listen to experts and reverse their position before further damage is done to both the UK's global standing, the vibrancy of our campuses and the prospect of economic recovery."
ForeignStudents.com will continue to support the calls to the government to remove international students from net migration figures. Over the past couple of years we have repeatedly argued that it is illogical, unfair on the students and damaging to Britain's higher education reputation.