UK: net migration issue back in the news

The ongoing debate of whether international students should be included in the net migration target has been reignited in the UK, with the Financial Times running a story that home secretary Amber Rudd is pushing to remove students from the migrant count.

Rudd is reported to be keen to detach students from the net migration count, given the imperative of ensuring the UK continues to welcome foreign students in a post-Brexit immigration regime.

The FT quoted an “ally” of the home secretary saying, “We’re going to have to do something about this ourselves, or we will be forced into doing it” – suggesting that a post-Brexit immigration bill might be defeated in parliament if the Conservative’s coalition party DUP sided with Tory rebels on a bill that deters migrant-students.

The UK is keen to reduce net migration yet continue to attract genuine international students who value the UK’s academic reputation.

In August, Rudd commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee to undertake a detailed study into the impact of international students in the UK.

This occured at the same time as a Home Office report was published, revealing almost 97% of foreign students – without further leave to remain – depart the country upon completion of their studies.

This blew apart a position held by some that the student visa route remained a back door route for would-be overstayers.

At the Russell Group of universities, head of policy Sarah Stevens was keen to point out how valuable international student fee income is to the network of prestigious, research-intensive universities.

“Every seven international students who start an undergraduate degree at a Russell Group university generate £1m in economic impact for the UK,” she said.

“We need an immigration system that allows universities to continue to recruit the best students from around the world. Removing students from the net migration target is something that the government should look at closely.”

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