An anti-immigration pressure group has claimed that removing international students from official immigration figures would reduce government statistics to “nonsense”, The Times reports.
Speaking at a debate in Westminster on 20 March, Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migration Watch UK, said the proposal by Universities UK to create a net migration count that excluded students from outside the European Union was unrealistic.
At present, overseas students are included in net migration figures published by the Office for National Statistics.
The government has pledged to reduce this count to the “tens of thousands” by 2015. But in 2010, net migration to the UK was 252,000 – the highest number on record.
Of 591,000 immigrants, 238,000 arrived to study at universities, colleges and schools. UUK is lobbying the government to remove students from the official tally, arguing that they are only temporary residents.
However, Sir Andrew dismissed Universities UK’s call for an alternative measure of immigration.
“It would destroy the credibility of government policy,” he said, adding that 60 per cent of those using the “points-based” system for immigration were students.
“If you take them out, you reduce the figures to nonsense.
“We have 500,000 non-EU students here. They come without any interviews, and there is no check on their departure.
“We have no idea of how many students come here and stay on. We have a very weak system.”
Other speakers at the conference included Eric Thomas, president of UUK and vice-chancellor of the University of Bristol, who said that only 2 per cent of university students break the terms of their entry into the UK.
He said the international student market was currently worth about £5 billion a year, according to the Department for Business, Industry and Skills, and was set to rise to £15 billion over the next decade.
But David Goodhart, director of the thinktank Demos, said the number of foreign students leaving higher education to join the UK’s general workforce was a problem.
“It is this leakage which is the issue here,” he said.
He also questioned the theory that welcoming more international students would lead to high export earnings in the future.
“We have this ill thought-out, happy-clappy view that the more people we have here [from abroad], the better our exports will be.
“The biggest ethnic minority in Britain is Indians, but our exports to India are miserable. Belgium has higher exports to India than we do.” Source: Time Edicuation.
Earlier this month The Times published a YouGov poll, commissioned by Universities UK, which found that 63 per cent of people put the income received from overseas students at less than £5.3 billion – the government’s estimated figure for 2010.
A quarter of people put the value at below £500 million – about a tenth of the actual value.
More than a third of the 2,766 respondents (36 per cent) incorrectly believed international students were taking places allocated for home (UK and EU) students.
Just 3% of students settle permanently after 5 years
And seven out of 10 (71 per cent) believed international students stayed in the country long after they graduated.
In fact, only three per cent settled permanently in the UK five years after graduation.
New Tier 4 student visa rules will come into force ‘within weeks’ in order to ‘cut abuse of the student visa route and ensure that only the brightest and the best students can stay and work in the UK’, Immigration Minister Damian Green announced recently.
Key features include:
- Post Study Work Visa (PSW) to be replace 6 April
- New Graduate Entrepreneur route
- Only student who graduate from a university, and have a job offer at a salary of at least £20,000 will be allowed to stay
- entrepreneurs or small company directors with £50,000 to invest can stay
- work placements restricted to one-third of the course for international students studying below degree level
International non-EU students are currently allowed work in the UK for 2 years after their studies have finished under the Tier 1 PSW (Post-study work) route. But from 6 April, a more ‘selective’ system will be implemented restricting the right to stay to international graduates who qualify under new rules.
Only those who ‘graduate from a university’, and have a skilled job offer with a minimum salary of £20,000 (or more in some cases) from a reputable employer accredited by the UK Border Agency, will be allowed to continue living and working in the UK.
At present there is still confusion over the rights of foreign students, some of whom can work 20 hours per week and some who cannot work at all, and dependants of Tier 4 students visa holders.
The UK is in danger of losing its position in this competitive market. It is not just about the loss of fees and jobs. The student market promotes Britain all over the world.
Many of the less popular UK universities may face downsizing or even closure in the next few years without the benefit of international students.
If you need any immigration advice or help with Sponsorship or Work Permits, Visa, ILR/Settlement, Citizenship, dependant visa or an appeal against a refusal please email:
You could qualify for a tax refund if you are an overseas student, work permit holder, Tier 1, Yellow or Blue Card holder – in fact any visa type – even if you are no longer legal or even in the UK!