Pressure mounts on Theresa May to exclude foreign students from immigration figures

Theresa May

The UK Government will come up with a plan to retract the policy drafted by Theresa May, British Prime Minister, that classifies foreign students as migrants in official immigration statistics.

Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, will ask her independent advisers on immigration to review the costs and advantages of enrolling overseas students. This move comes in the backdrop of warnings by universities that classifying foreign students as long-term migrants is dissuading young people from coming to study in the educational institutions of the UK.

The evidence also shows that the number of overseas students overstaying their visas has been exaggerated.

In July, the Office for Statistics Regulation watchdog was quoted by The Independent as saying that official figures, which indicate that about 100,000 students are staying illegally in Britain each year after they complete their courses, are ‘potentially misleading’ and need to be moved down to an ‘experimental’ number.

A Drop the Target campaign that calls for foreign students to be removed from these statistics is being run The Independent and Open Britain, which advocates a soft Brexit.
Some Cabinet ministers such as Boris Johnson, Liam Fox, Philip Hammond and Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader, have also urged students to be excluded from the migration statistics.

A senior member of the current Government, who too is against foreign students figuring in these numbers, said that the data released by the ONS (Office for National Statistics) recently demonstrates that students make a large economic contribution.

That being said, not counting students in the immigration figures would help May in achieving her target of reducing net migration to below 100,000 a year. Currently, the net migration figure is 248,000, which includes around 73,000 overseas students.

On 23 August, the latest quarterly figures are slated to be published. The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) will report on students from the EU and from outside of it by September 2018, the study of which will include the effect of tuition fees and the other spending on the local, regional and national economy and education sector. It will also study the role that foreign students played in contributing to the local economic growth and the impact they have on the provision and the UK students’ quality of education.

It was acknowledged by the ONS that international students paid £4.5 billion in tuition fees for the academic year 2015-16, which is almost twice as was estimated previously.

Rudd added that there was no ceiling on the number of genuine foreign students who could come to the UK to pursue studies. She said it was a fact that their country continues to be the second most preferred global destination for students seeking higher education. It is something they should take pride in, she said.

Stating how important international students were important for the UK’s higher education sector, which is their key export, she said that that was the reason why they wanted to have a strong and an independent evidence of their value base and the effect their country has.

Brandon Lewis, the Immigration Minister, said that they never harboured any doubts about their commitment to cutting down net migration to manageable levels would diminish their determination to attract foreign students. Though they had come down heavily on abuse, they have been increasing the intake of authentic students coming to the UK.

The Home Office has affirmed that the UK remains the second most popular destination for international students, as four UK universities figure top ten universities in the world and 16 are ranked in the top 100.

If you are looking to study in the UK, get in touch with Y-Axis, a highly popular consultancy for immigration services, to apply for a study visa.

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