The data has been used by Home Office ministers to justify clampdowns on student visas, but the review by the Office for Statistics Regulation has found that the ONS data “may not provide a complete and coherent picture” and is therefore “not of sufficiently high quality to meet the needs of users” including those who formulate public policy.
As the government’s statistics watchdog, the Office for Statistics Regulation have advised that official ONS data which suggests that around 100,000 international students remain in the UK each year after their courses end is “potentially misleading” and should be downgraded to the status of an experimental figure. The data is produced using the International Passenger Survey (IPS) and has been used by Home Office ministers to justify clampdowns on student visas. The IPS uses a sample of only 0.2% of visitors and migrants entering and leaving the UK, and so fails to collect information on many emigrating graduates.
The review identifies a number of potential problems with the IPS methodology, including that the collection of student data is not sufficient or of a high enough quality to produce the types of estimates they generate. While the IPS records the departure of some former students via its ‘previous reason for migration’ question, the Office for Statistics Regulation believes that it potentially misses certain groups of former students, such as those who worked for a few months after study and so may respond ‘working’, or those who entered for a one year Masters course but leave before 12 months, which means they no longer meet the UN definition of a long term international migrant. This is highly problematic due to the high numbers of students on postgraduate courses – 39% of all non-EU international students in the UK are on a one year Masters course. The extent to which the IPS reliably captures departures of former students therefore remains unclear, according to the report.
The review concludes that the ONS student emigration estimate “creates doubts about the patterns of student migration and generates a narrative that is potentially misleading for a topic of major public interest and policy sensitivity”. It recommends that the ONS data should be downgraded to the status of an experimental figure, as the concerns raised threaten the public value of the student migration statistics and mean that they are not fit for public policy purposes.
- Posted by Exporting Education UK
- On 03/08/2017