Following on from the third reading of the Immigration Bill which took place on 6 May 2014, Baroness Williams of Crosby posed an important question during the House of Lords debate today. Baroness Williams of Crosby asked the House whether the Government had plans to remove international students from the headline immigration figures. As the elections near, immigration has definitely been at the center of debate. As we reported earlier this year, Indian born British entrepreneur Lord Bilimoria was critical of the government’s immigration cap and believed that students should be removed from this.
Lords Warn Government: Message to International Students ‘Must be Clear’
During the debate it was suggested that net migration statistics can be broken down in categories; students can be clearly distinguished from these statistics. Therefore, if the government wanted to, they could remove students from net migration statistics. Lord Holmes of Richmond stated that “the message must be clear to international students: we want you and we welcome you.” However, Lord Holmes asked for reassurance that the Government would do everything to ensure that, when it comes to global higher education, the brightest and the best students would choose Britain.
In response the Lords felt this was indeed the Government’s policy and they hoped that it would be possible to persuade Universities and UK to take this opportunity to improve their position as a second provider of higher education to the world student population.
Lord Bragg: Government is Excluding Students from China & India
Lord Bragg reiterated Lord Bilimoria’s sentiments that the UK’s immigration rules for students are causing Indian students to turn away from the UK. He asked whether the current government fully understood the damage being done by the UK’s student immigration policy:
“I speak as chancellor of the University of Leeds. I refer not only to the damage in fees, which is well over £1 million or £1.5 million—a lot to any university—but to the fact that we are excluding more than 23% of people from China and India. Does the Minister understand the value of those contacts, their value to our future negotiations, prosperity and culture and the lessening of value of our academic status in the world by this policy?”
Lord Taylor of Holbeach added to the debate:
“The point of my argument is that students come here not just for six months or so but to pursue a course of study and, following that course of study, they go on to do other things.”
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