28 February 2011

Artificial UK immigration targets will damage universities, says research institute

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New research by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has concluded that tens of thousands of genuine international students are at risk of being turned away from British universities and colleges, costing the UK billions of pounds, because of the Government immigration policy.

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The UK immigration cuts to students will damage the economy without providing any real decrease in net migration, a new report says.

The Coalition government has pledged to cut annual net migration to the UK “from hundreds of thousands to tens of thousands”, however, IPPR analysis shows that reducing UK Visa  numbers for students will have only short-lived impact on total net migration because only a small proportion of international students end up staying in the UK permanently.

Even large reductions in student immigration will deliver only small reductions in net UK immigration in the longer term, the institute says.

It is estimated that international students bring up to £10 billion into the UK economy every year through fees and direct spending alone and education institutions themselves would be badly hit by reduced international student numbers. Potential impacts could include job losses, some courses and departments no longer being viable along with increased costs for UK students.

Sarah Mulley, Associate Director for Migration, Trade and Development at IPPR said: “In the run-up to the announcement of severe cuts in international student numbers, the government has made much of abuse of the student visa system. It is absolutely right to clamp down this – everybody agrees with that. But emphasising this issue now is something of a smokescreen because the best evidence suggests that the vast majority of international students come here legitimately and most stay for only a short time.

“The government will not reduce immigration in a big way by tackling student visa cheats. To meet their election pledge, they will have to significantly reduce the number of legitimate international students, and their proposals would do just that. This will cause real damage to the education sector, and the wider British economy, all in pursuit of an artificial migration target,” she said.

The IPPR report welcomes proposals to further tighten rules for the education institutions which sponsor international students in order to reduce abuse of the student visa system, but also argues that many of the changes proposed would have the effect of damaging the recruitment of legitimate international students, and are based on limited or unreliable evidence.


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