UK Committee Urges Govt to Remove Students from Net Migration Target

There should be no national target to restrict the number of students coming to the United Kingdom, the Home Affairs Committee said.


The UK Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee called on the government on Jan.15 to remove students from the net migration target. In its report, the committee said that it is not logical or in the best interests of the United Kingdom to include international students in a target meant for restricting migration flow.

The report, Immigration Policy: Basis for Building Consensus, stated that international students represent a large group of migrants, who are mostly temporary and whom the government is keen to encourage to come to the United Kingdom to pursue higher education.

“There should be no national target to restrict the numbers of students coming to the United Kingdom. As a minimum, the government should remove immediately student migration from the net migration target,” said the report.

The report also asked the government to avoid binary approaches that treat all immigration as the same, and allow the debate to be polarized. “There should be clearly differentiated approaches for different types of immigration and these must be proactively communicated,” the report said.

The United Kingdom houses some of the leading universities of the world and international students and staff contribute to the economies of every region of the country, it said.

“Immigration has always been an important part of our history, economy and culture and will continue to be a crucial policy area for our future,” the Home Affairs Committee said in a statement.

India was among the top five non-European Union countries sending students to pursue higher education in Britain. In 2015-16, 16,745 Indian students arrived in the United Kingdom for higher studies. In 2014-15, the figure was 18,320, and in 2013-14 it was 19,750. China topped this list, with 91,215 Chinese students studying in the United Kingdom in 2015-16.

Research commissioned by UK universities found that in 2014-15, non-EU and EU students contributed £13.8 billion to Britain’s Gross domestic product and supported 206,600 jobs.

“The majority of non-EU students are temporary visitors and leave the UK after completing their studies. A proportion will remain in the UK either to continue their education or move into employment via points-based routes,” the report said.

There is no cap on the number of international students who can come to study in the United Kingdom or remain in the country to work after their studies if they meet the points-based criteria. However, the government does include international students in its target of limiting net migration to 100,000 per year.

The report argued that including international students within the target makes the United Kingdom look a less welcoming country to prospective students than its competitors. “We heard from witnesses that the public do not see international students as migrants at all,” said the report.

The new immigration rules that were introduced on Jan. 11, 2018, made switching to work visas more flexible for foreign students pursuing higher education in the United Kingdom.

A survey conducted by ComRes for Universities UK in April 2017, showed that 75 per cent of British adults said they would like to see the same number, or more, international students. “This figure increased to 87% once the information on the economic benefits of international students was provided,” the report revealed.

The survey also found that 64 per cent of British adults think international students have a positive impact on the local economies of the towns and cities where they study, while 61 per cent of the public believes that international students also have a valuable social and cultural impact on university towns and cities.

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