It’s time we took international students out of immigration figures

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Although immigration isn’t a particularly big issue for students and young people, it is nationally. Just before the EU referendum last year, an Ipsos Mori poll found it was voters’ highest concern, with it taking second or third place in general elections. Figures are sky high, so why don’t we do something easy to get them down and make a quick buck without actually reducing immigrant arrivals? Let’s take international students out of migration figures.

A recent report on higher education in the UK found that during the 2015-16 academic year, universities received £3.78bn from overseas students – a 6% increase on the previous year.

We’re talking about £3.78bn more to our universities, helping to sustain excellent standard of academic research and teaching. When compared to the tuition fees that UK domestic students ‘pay’, approximately half of which will be picked up by the taxpayer due to inability to pay, this seems like a good deal.

 

Why don’t we do something easy to get them down and make a quick buck without actually reducing immigrant arrivals

 

Dissenters argue that wanting to exclude international students from immigration figures must be another ploy to fiddle the numbers and have mass immigration through stealthy means. However it’s wrong to lump students in with other immigrants – most of the down-sides of immigration are not applicable to international students.

The majority will live and spend most of their time on university campuses, far away from the prying eyes of nervous citizens. They generally calm, well-spoken, and knowledgeable individuals. As their families have spent considerable sums getting them here, it is hardly surprising that international students tend to be model citizens.

Most of the down-sides of immigration are not applicable to international students

In terms of public services, their effect will be minute if not non-existent. As sore eyes from staring at computer screens and paper cuts aren’t particularly troublesome health issues, the NHS faces very little additional pressure from these students.

Moreover, upon graduation they become excellent ambassadors for Britain around the world, able to talk up our nation and values. If they can be encouraged to stay, we would have a group of skilled individuals who could fill up acute skills shortages around the country, without having paid a penny to educate them.

In terms of public services, their effect will be minute if not non-existent

As the times higher education list last year showed, we have 3 universities in the world’s top ten. It also found that almost a quarter of the top 200 universities in Europe were British. By curtailing international student numbers, we risk depriving our universities of a stream of highly talented individuals. This will threaten our universities’ global standing.

We have lost many industries to other nations in the past. In the 1960s and 70s we lost the bulk of our merchant traffic. In the  1980s, we lost much of our manufacturing base. Increasingly in the present, we are losing our prominence in the airports sector.

By curtailing international student numbers, we risk depriving our universities of a stream of highly talented individuals

If we don’t change tack now, our universities could go in the same direction. By instituting a bureaucratic and cumbersome visa system, we are increasingly encouraging talented students to study in other nations, at the expense of our universities, public coffers and the wider economy.

To put our universities on a good footing is easy. Unlike the massive investment in infrastructure needed to maintain our competitive edge in other industries, all we need to go here is encourage more foreign students to come to the UK. A good start, would be taking out these high reward and low cost migrants out of our immigration figures and simplify our visa systems.

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