Boris calls for international students to be excluded from immigration quotas
The Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, has contradicted official government policy by calling for international students to be excluded from immigration quotas.
In an interview with Robert Peston on ITV on Sunday, Johnson described the “massive benefit” that international students bring. When asked by Peston if he believed students should be excluded from the net migration count, Johnson replied “I do take that view”.
This directly contravenes Prime Minister Theresa May’s view on the issue. In October a No. 10 spokesperson said, regarding the quotas: “The Government objective is to reduce annual net migration to the tens of thousands, and in order to deliver this we are keeping all visa routes under review.
“Our position on who is included in the figures has not changed, and we are categorically not reviewing whether or not students are included.”
This issue regarding international students has divided the government as well as the Conservative Party. The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, spoke in favour of removing non-UK students from the migration count in October and was promptly slapped down by No.10. Ed Vaizey, Conservative backbencher, praised the attractive nature of UK universities to international students describing them as “some the best in the world” and add that “they are an export service” on BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour on Sunday.
International students make up a large of part of the student body in London. UCL has the largest number of international students out of any university in the UK with KCL, University of Arts, Imperial, City and LSE in the top 20.
A 2015 report by the business lobby London First and the Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) consultancy found that in 2013-14 there were almost 67,500 international students attending London universities – making up 18% of the total student population in the capital. This was 22% of the 310,000 international students across the UK.
The same report showed international students contribute £2.8bn in fees and consumer spending, supporting nearly 70,000 jobs in London, while the cost of providing them with public services is £540m. This means there is a strong economic argument for not including non-UK students in the migration quota, as well as the academic and social benefits bought by of international students.
Jo Valentine, chief executive of London First, said “International students are made to feel unwelcome because of anti-immigration rhetoric – and the fact that they are currently included in the government’s net migration target.”
The number of first-year non-EU enrolments to UK higher education has fallen by 3%, according to new data released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency.
While this figure fell, the total number of non-EU students enrolled rose by 1%. Gordon Slaven, director of higher education at the British Council, said it is “alarming” that the UK’s growth is so small. “Other countries are currently gaining at the UK’s expense,” he commented.
Dominic Scott, chief executive of the UK Council for International Student Affairs, told PIE News that while these figures are disappointing, it is not surprising given the negative public discourse around immigration and changing visa rules in 2013/14.
Dame Julia Goodfellow, president of Universities UK, said:
“It is essential that the UK government presents a welcoming climate for genuine international students and academics, and ensures that visa and immigration rules are proportionate and communicated appropriately”.
Photo credit: ITV