This week, it has been revealed that the number of international students taking higher education courses in the UK has fallen for the first time since 1983. The treatment of international students has been a big part of the immigration debate. Everything from removing international students from immigration figures, to the UK needing to be more welcoming and to the immigration bill being discriminatory towards students, has been debated.
Decline in the Number of International Students Studying in the UK
For the first time in 30 years, there has been a decline in the number of international students coming to the UK. For instance, 435,005 in 2011 to 431,905 in 2012. The number of Indian students coming to the UK has sharply declined, with 20,000 students coming from India in 2012 compared to 33,000 in 2010. Earlier this year, the Lords Select Committee published a report showcasing that an ‘unwelcoming’ UK has led to an unprecedented fall in international Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) student numbers.
This is a worry considering the significant contribution international students provide to the UK economy and Universities. Nearly 20% of the output generated by universities can now be attributed to the enrolment of non-EU students (£13.9 billion of £73 billion). Money spent by international students (EU and non-EU) on fees and accommodation amounted to £4.4 billion in 2011–12; £3.8 billion was from non-EU students alone. This expenditure, as well as that spent off-campus, has knock-on effects, generating jobs throughout the UK: of the 757,268 full-time equivalent jobs generated by the higher education sector in 2011–12, 18% of these can be attributed to the enrolment of non-EU students (136,639 jobs).
Lord Hesltine: Students are a ‘Great Asset Financially & Educationally
An ongoing argument regarding international students, is they should be removed from the Government’s net migration target. The debate is that the continuation of including international students in migrant figures, the UK is risking pushing international talent to other countries.
Political leaders from the Deputy Prime Minister to Lord Heseltine have voiced their opinion to the call for international students to be removed from the immigration figures. And are frustrated that the Home Office still refuses to take action, despite the evident failure of its policies towards controlling net migration, shown recently to have risen by 68,000 in the last year.
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”.
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