Senior Figures Call for International Students to be Excluded from Immigration Figures

In news reports today, the former deputy prime minister, Lord Michael Hesltine, criticised the inclusion of foreign students in the UK government’s plans to cut net migration to the UK. This comes after an ICM poll for thinktank British Future and Universities UK, found that 59% of the public believe that the government should not cut international student numbers. It seems that 22% took the opposing view and 66% of Conservative voters opposed reducing international numbers.

UUK & British Future Report

The report argues that the government should instead remove international students from the net migration target and support and challenge universities to attract more international students to study here.

The new research poses a challenge to the government as it seeks to keep its promise to reduce net migration to “tens of thousands”.  International students are the largest group of migrants from outside the EU counted in the government’s net migration figures, representing around a third of all people coming into Britain.

Lord Hesltine: Students are a ‘Great Asset Financially & Educationally

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Lord Heseltine drew a distinction between overseas students and permanent immigrant groups. He said that foreign students come to the UK to study and then return home on graduation.

“[T]he government will have to recognise that there are very large numbers of students in this country – in our universities, in our business schools – who are a great asset financially and educationally.”

Lord Hesltine believes that the UK universities’ inability to attract foreign students could lead to a “lack of finance”, which could be “serious for universities”.

Nick Clegg: Students not Perceived as ‘Immigrants’

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also joined in on the debate and echoed a more flexible approach to student visas.

Nick Clegg stated:

“I actually agree with Michael Heseltine … And I’ve also been very explicit that I think a net immigration target, which is pursued by the Conservative Party, makes absolutely no sense at all because you could have a million people leave, a million people come in and you’ve met your target of zero. It doesn’t make any sense.”

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