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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

Government wasting time by chasing after non-existent student visa overstayers, says IPPR

IPPR react to today's ONS statistics that show long-term net migration has fallen

New statistics, released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) indicate that in the year ending March 2017 total long-term net migration to the UK was 246,000, compared to 327,000 in the year ending March 2016. This is driven largely by a fall in net migration of EU citizens of 51,000 (particularly A8 citizens from Eastern European accession countries).

Marley Morris, IPPR senior research fellow, commenting on today’s long-term immigration statistics from the ONS, said:

“Today’s latest analysis suggests that far fewer international students are overstaying their visas than the government originally thought.

“This follows IPPR’s own research last year, which found that the non-EU student emigration figures are likely to underestimate the number of students leaving the UK.

“If the Home Office continues to rely on this data to inform a restrictive policy on international students, then it is in all likelihood spending valuable government time and resources on a problem that simply does not exist.

“Given this new revealing analysis from exit checks data, the government should now urgently explore ways to remove students from the migration target altogether.

"The latest data from the ONS also finds that net inflows of EU migrants have fallen substantially over the past year. There is a risk that, without clear guidance soon to provide certainty to EU nationals currently residing in the UK, we could face a ‘brain drain’ of EU talent before Brexit even takes place.”

IPPR’s recent research on international students found that the International Passenger Survey (IPS), the key source for the migration statistics and the government’s policy on international students, could be overestimating the number of students who stay on in the UK after completing their studies by many tens of thousands. IPPR found that the IPS data does not tally with other data sources on international students, including the Home Office’s visa data, the Annual Population Survey, and the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA’s) Destination of Leavers Survey. Today the ONS analysis has confirmed as correct our view that there is strong evidence to suggest that the IPS is underestimating student emigration.



Sofie Jenkinson 07981 023031

Editor's Note:

1. It should be noted that the migration figures are estimates only and subject to considerable sampling error.

2. Read IPPR’s latest report on international students ‘Destination Education’ here:

3. Read IPPR’s latest report on Brexit and migration ‘Striking the right deal: UK-EU migration and the Brexit negotiations’ here:

4. IPPR aims to influence policy in the present and reinvent progressive politics in the future, and is dedicated to the better country that Britain can be through progressive policy and politics. With nearly 60 staff across four offices throughout the UK, IPPR is Britain’s only national think tank with a truly national presence.

Our independent research is wide ranging, it covers the economy, work, skills, transport, democracy, the environment, education, energy, migration and healthcare among many other areas.