The government has refused to remove international students from net migration figures, according to the latest reports.
Despite repeated calls from vice-chancellors, think tanks, business groups and MPs to remove overseas students from the migration figures, the government decided to stand firm on the issue, reiterating the fact that there is no cap on the number of foreign students who can study in Britain - but refusing to remove student migrants from the overall migration numbers.
It is this inclusion of students in the annual net migration target of “tens of thousands” that is leading to confusion around the issue. Many of those involved in the higher education sector have highlighted that the decision to continue to measure migration in this way is resulting in students being made to feel unwelcome in Britain – something that could cost the UK economy dearly in its international reputation.
Among the voices calling for students to be removed from the annual figures was the Commons Business, Innovation and Skills committee report on the issue. The report stated: “The inclusion of overseas students at accredited institutions in the overall total is misleading. Furthermore, it runs the risk of undermining a world class export market.”
President of Universities UK, Eric Thomas, also demonstrated his frustration towards the government's decision, telling the BBC that the decision was “not justified by the evidence”.
He added: “The government's decision to ignore the recommendations of five parliamentary committees that students should not be included in the government's net migration target is disappointing.
"The more positive tone of the government's statement is important, but we also need action. We need the Home Office and the UK Border Agency to work constructively with universities to ensure that genuine international students are not discouraged from coming to the UK because of an unnecessarily obstructive visa system."