Foreign students should still
be counted in migrant cap,
says report

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has published its findings on the effect of international students on the UK economy.  The report, commissioned by the Home Office, states that:

‘There is currently no cap on the numbers of international students able to come to the UK to study and we recommend it stays that way.’

But the MAC does not suggest that student numbers should be removed from the government’s net migration target. They acknowledge that, while plenty of institutions are keen to remove students from the cap, nobody has come up with a reliable proposal of how better to count them when compiling migrant statistics.

The report says:

‘If there is a problem with students in the net migration target, it is with the target itself rather than the inclusion of students in that target.’

Around 300,000 study visas are issued each year, covering short-term study and those on a Tier 4 visa. These students will probably stay for at least a year, whereas the half a million who visit the UK for shorter than four weeks are here to learn English and the majority are from the EU.

The number of students from India fell from a peak of 24,000 in 2010/11 to fewer than 10,000 in 2016/2017. This, the MAC suppose, is connected to adverse coverage of the UK as a place to study in the India media.

As we have previously reported, the MAC confirms that international students provide a clear economic benefit to the UK, not just through their tuition fees, which often subsidise the cost of domestic students.

Their expenditure also boosts their local economies particularly in the education and hospitality sectors, and they do not use public resources like the NHS as much as other members of society.

Dame Janet Beer, president of Universities UK, said of the MAC’s conclusions:

‘We are disappointed with its main recommendations. While the UK continues to count international students as long-term migrants in its net migration target, there is a continued pressure to reduce their numbers. This adds to the perception that they are not welcome here.

Growth will only be possible if we have an immigration system that encourages talented international students to choose the UK.’

Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive of the business group London First, agreed:

‘The MAC has recognised that international students are a boon to the economy, contributing £2.3bn each year in the capital alone.

‘With firms struggling to fill skills gaps and vacancies outstripping the people available to fill them, it is economic madness to send these talented youngsters packing as soon as their studies are over.’

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