'Being open to students from around the world vital to United Kingdom success'

Claudine Rigal
Août 27, 2017

However, taking students out of the target is now seen as reduced in importance because data showing that there is no evidence of an "overstayer" problem confirm that students are not long-term migrants, which removes the incentive to try to drive down worldwide student numbers.

Shock new figures released on Thursday showed that just 4,600 non-EU students - 2.6% of the total - were overstaying their visas and living in the United Kingdom illegally.

Faced with new statistical doubts, home secretary Amber Rudd - who has promised more curbs on worldwide students - announced a new study by the influential Migration Advisory Committee on the financial and other impact of students coming to the UK.

The review ordered by Amber Rudd comes as official figures show that net migration to Britain had fallen to 246,000 - the lowest level for three years.

The decrease in the net migration figure, described as "statistically significant" by the ONS, was driven by an increase in the number of EU citizens leaving the United Kingdom over the year to March 2017, particularly those from the so-called "EU8" eastern European countries, according to the ONS.

Universities have reported a fall in the number of students from European Union countries applying to study in the United Kingdom and there is also a division over whether or not their numbers should be included in official immigration data collecting.

Separately, figures released to Sky News by the Home Office this month under Freedom of Information laws revealed that only around 5,000 foreign students a year on average are granted a general visa to remain in the United Kingdom after finishing their studies.

The shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said: "I think there's always been a consensus on the Labour side, but also among most Tories that think about these issues, that you shouldn't have students in migration targets".

“There is no evidence of a major issue of non-EU students overstaying their entitlement to stay, ” it concluded.

Recent research by Oxford Economics showed that global students generate more than £25 billion for the economy and support over 200,000 jobs in communities across the UK. I would hope they would not just apologise to the individual students, many of whom have paid large fees and even found themselves deported in some cases, but simply acknowledge that the figures are grossly distorted and wrong.”.

This could potentially provide further political cover for a change of stance on including students in immigration figures, but it would take a year to complete.

But Theresa May has repeatedly refused, insisting it would look like cheating and would also break United Nations rules, which state all who come to a country and stay for longer than 12 months are migrants.

However, newly published data produced by the ONS following the re-introduction of "exit checks" on those leaving the United Kingdom found no evidence of non-EU students routinely overstaying their entitlement. They come to the United Kingdom, study for a period, then the vast majority return home.

Immigration figures released on Thursday reveal that net migration to the United Kingdom has dropped by 25 percent as European Union citizens take the hint following the 2016 Brexit vote and increasingly decide to leave.

Not everyone in May's government are on board with including worldwide students in the immigration target. While long-term migration to study by non-EU students fell by 20,000 to 93,000, visas issued to non-EU students in the same period rose by 5%.

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