Students should be excluded from net migration target, recommends committee
Excluding international students from immigration statistics would drastically improve figures without damaging the economy, The work of the UK Border Agency (December 2011-March 2012) reveals.
In 2011, 50 per cent of all non-visit visas in the UK were issued for students. Currently, non-EU citizens that choose to study in the UK are included in immigration statistics and would be drastically hit by David Cameron’s plans to reduce migration from, “the hundreds of thousands to the tens of thousands”. With 261,334 student visas approved in 2011, students make up the largest number of visa applicants. In May, 68 university chancellors and chairs of council wrote to the prime minister urging him to reclassify students.
The UK’s share in the international higher education market is worth £7.9bn and the cutting the number of international students coming in to the country to study would drastically damage the state of the British higher education system, the report continues.
The report stresses the importance of making sure the UK remains a competitor in this market and that studying in the UK doesn’t become “a less attractive option”.
Including students in immigration figures and thus reducing the number of students entering Britain, “would damage a strong sector of our economy and also the cultural diversity of our universities.
“We recommend that the government should exclude students from their net migration target. This will enable the government to encourage students to come to the UK whilst maintaining their position on curbing immigration.”
In order to maintain public confidence in the immigration system, the report suggests rolling out face-to-face interviews that were carried out on trial by the UK Border Agency between December 2011 and February 2012. During this process, “17 per cent of those interviewed were refused a visa under existing powers and that entry clearance officers would have liked to refuse up to 32 per cent on the grounds that they did not believe their applications were genuine.”
Due to this success, the interviews are being pushed out further and the report recommends , “the Agency makes face to face interviews compulsory for all foreign students where it is practical and appropriate to do so. The option of an online interview could overcome problems with distance. This will deal with concerns before the students enter the UK, not after.”
By Danielle Eades