International students and net migration in the UK
This report recommends that international students should be excluded from overall net migration figures, as moves to limit incoming student numbers for the sake of long-term migration figures put a valuable export market – higher education – at risk. A survey of the top 10 countries for international students suggests there is no international rule or standard preventing the UK from counting students in this way.
Instead, the report recommends that students are counted in net migration figures only at the point they elect to stay on in the UK after study, for example to work or marry, and so switch into another migration category.
Most students leave the UK after studying, but most students stay for a few years – this means that they count as immigrants long before they count as emigrants. For a government committed to reducing net migration 'to the tens of thousands', this provides an incentive to reduce incoming student numbers and by doing so to 'bank' an apparent net migration saving, despite the fact that most students make no contribution to long-term net migration.
The report estimates that the government's stated policy of 'bearing down' on student migration could cost the UK £2–3 billion per year in economic contribution from the reduction of 50,000 international students per year. Changing the counting method to exclude students from net migration would remove the incentive to 'bear down' and so avoid this substantial loss. Moreover, an alternative 'pro-growth' policy to attract an additional 50,000 students could double this effect, adding to the economic might of the UK's education industry.
Alex Glennie, Senior Research Fellow
In the news
Net migration down by a third in a year
The Telegraph - 24 May 2013
Net migration to UK lowest in decade after fall in overseas students
Financial Times (£) - 24 May 2013
Number of immigrants at its lowest for a decade
Daily Mail - 24 May 2013
UK’s immigration hits 10-year low
The Sun - 24 May 2013
UK net migration shrinks further, official figures show
The Guardian - 24 May 2013
International student visas
Guardian - 14 Sep 2012
Visa tensions for British higher education
Inside Higher Ed - 06 Sep 2012
Now the stage is set for some sensible immigration policies
Daily Telegraph - 06 Jun 2012
Minister rejects claim that immigration curbs will damage higher education
The Guardian - 30 May 2012
Migration to UK more than double govt target
BBC News Online - 25 May 2012
New rules on overseas students 'will cost universities billions'
The Guardian - 17 May 2012
Student visa rules could cost millions
The Guardian - 15 May 2012
“Perverse incentive” on overseas students
Times Higher Education - 15 May 2012
Author(s) : Sarah Mulley - 23 May 2013
Author(s) : Sarah Mulley - 28 Feb 2013
Author(s) : Sarah Mulley - 15 Feb 2013
Author(s) : Matt Cavanagh - 30 Aug 2012
Author(s) : Sarah Mulley - 24 May 2012
Author(s) : Alex Glennie - 14 May 2012
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