Press Release: Time for a target to increase international student numbers, cross-party group of Parliamentarians tells government
For immediate release – Tuesday 11 September 2018
A cross-party group of parliamentarians has called on government to develop an ambitious policy for recruitment following the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) report published today on the economic and social impacts of international students. Former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan MP and former Universities Minister Lord Willetts are among the members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on International Students that has responded to the report by calling on the Government to commit to increasing international student numbers.
The Parliamentarians – including Lord Bilimoria, Chairman of Cobra beer and Paul Blomfield MP, who are co-Chairs of the group, together with crossbench Peer Lord Hannay – have welcomed the report’s recognition that international students bring significant economic, social and cultural benefits to all regions and nations of the UK. But given the UK is losing market share to competitor countries – a fact highlighted in the report – the group has expressed concern at the lack of policy suggestions that could address this problem. It proposes a strategy to increase international student recruitment.
The Parliamentarians have said the MAC report appears to confuse migration targets and statistics. The report recommends international students continue to be included in net migration statistics, which the MPs and Peers accept, but they call for students to be removed from the Government’s target on net migration. Instead they propose a new target to increase international student numbers. They point to evidence that the general public overwhelmingly recognise the specific value of overseas students to the UK, with polling published last week showing that three-quarters of British adults would like to see the same or more international students in the UK when made aware of their economic benefits.
The APPG has long supported greater work opportunities for international students to stay in the UK when they finish their studies but the Parliamentarians say the MAC has only offered tweaks to the system which favour some students over others. Despite sharing evidence that there is widespread support for a radical change to post study work, the Parliamentarians are disappointed the report offers only small solutions that would benefit those who do Master’s programmes or PhDs. They call on the government to move forward with recommendations from Universities UK and others for a two year post study work offer for all international graduates.
The International Students APPG is currently overseeing an inquiry into building a sustainable future for international students in the UK, which is looking at the impact of overseas students to the education sector as a whole, and all regions and nations of the UK. Once the inquiry is completed, it will also produce recommendations for government.
Paul Blomfield MP, Co-Chair of the International Students APPG said: “We’re losing out to other countries as the report rightly highlights. The government needs to set an ambitious target for catching up with our competitors and put the policies in place to achieve it. We should follow the US model of counting the numbers, but excluding students from the overall net migration target.”
Nicky Morgan, Vice-Chair of the International Students APPG said: “This report highlights the immense value of international students to the UK economy and society. It highlights how many of our competitor countries have national strategies and targets for increasing the number of international students. Yet it suggests only tweaking our immigration policies. We need to be much more ambitious. It’s time for a target to increase international student numbers that universities and government can work together to achieve.”
Lord Bilimoria, Co-Chair of the International Students APPG said: “The report highlights the benefits that international students bring to the UK; including to the economy, to the experience of our domestic students, as well as being one of our strongest elements of soft power. It is also excellent to see the report stated clearly that the government’s net migration target is purely political, and that the existence of the target itself is a problem.”
“One of the biggest disappointments is that the report does not recommend bringing back the two-year postgraduate work visa, which existed from 2008-2012. Despite the report clearly outlining how we lag well behind our competitor countries, who all have very attractive post-study work visa arrangements, the MAC has failed to recommend a model which will be competitive.”
Notes to editors
- In August 2017, the former Home Secretary Amber Rudd commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), an independent, non-statutory, non-departmental public body, to assess the economic and social impacts of international students who study in the UK. On Tuesday 11 September, the committee published its final report with recommendations for future government policy.
- The findings are intended to inform government policies for the UK’s future immigration system following our withdrawal from the EU. The government is expected to publish an immigration white paper in the coming months setting out its intended approach towards immigration, to be followed by an Immigration Bill which will be scrutinised by parliament.
- The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for International Students is a cross-party group of MPs and peers established in 2016 which aims “to recognise the internationalisation and global prominence of UK education; promote the value of international students to UK education, economy and ‘soft power’; raise awareness of issues which affect international students and UK education; and provide a platform for collaboration between parliamentarians, international education institutions and professionals and business leaders.”
- The International Students APPG launched its inquiry into building a sustainable future for international students in the UK in July 2018. It is currently taking evidence to inform its recommendations for government, businesses and education institutions.
- The UK remains a popular destination for international students, attracting more students from abroad than any other country except the USA. However, the UK’s competitors – such as USA, Australia, France and Germany – all continue to grow at a faster rate than the UK, with growth rates in 2014-15 of 9.4%, 10.7%, 1.8% and 8.7% respectively. Over the same period, the UK’s international enrolments grew by just 0.5%.
- The MAC inquiry into the economic and social impacts of international students was commissioned on the same day as new Home Office exit check data which demonstrated very high levels of visa compliance among international students. The most recent exit check data on this issue, published last month, shows that 97.6% of student visa holders departed in-time (i.e. before their visas expired), meaning that non-compliance is at worst 2.4% (and that some of these may still have left legitimately).
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- Posted by Rhys Newcombe-Jones
- On 11/09/2018