27 February 2013

Government refuses to budge on UK immigration figures and international students

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Despite just returning from a trip to India during which Prime Minister David Cameron urged more Indian students to study in the UK, his Government has confirmed they will not be removing international students from UK immigration figures.

UK visa

Despite travelling to India earlier this month to encourage more foreign students to the UK, David Cameron will not remove them from migration statistics.

The coalition Government promised to reduce net migration to the UK to the 'tens of thousands' by the end of the current parliament. In order to attempt this they have made significant changes to UK visa and immigration policy, some of which affect international students.

A variety of people, from business heads to university vice-chancellors and members of the House of Lords have tried to persuade the Government to remove international students from migration figures. They claim this will prevent negative connotations with international study in the UK as well as help the Government achieve its goal of reducing net migration.

"The inclusion of overseas students at accredited institutions in the overall total [of immigration to the UK] is misleading. Furthermore, it runs the risk of undermining a world class export market," read a report from the Commons Business, Innovation and Skills committee on overseas students and immigration.

The UK is a world leader in the international education market alongside the US, Canada and Australia yet is the only leader which includes international students in its net migration figures.

However, despite the pressure the coalition has remained firm and refused to remove students from the figures.

Eric Thomas, president of Universities UK, praised Mr Cameron's efforts to encourage more Indian students to study in the UK but said the decision to leave the figures in was 'disappointing'.

"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," said Mr Thomas.

"The more positive tone of the Government's statement is important, but we also need action. We need the Home Office and the UK Border Agency to work constructively with universities to ensure that genuine international students are not discouraged from coming to the UK because of an unnecessarily obstructive visa system."

Mr Thomas' comments were echoed by Sally Hunt, general secretary of University and College Union:

"The Government has made it very clear it wishes to reduce net migration, but its chaotic approach risks doing real damage to our standing on the global stage," said Ms Hunt.

"Just last week the prime minister had to try and convince Indian students that Britain still welcomed foreign students."


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