Former Govt aide calls for students to be removed from immigration targets

22 Jul 2014 | Posted by Carl Thomas

A former advisor to the universities minister is calling on the Government to stop counting overseas students in its figures for UK immigration as part of its attempts to reduce the number of people coming to the UK from abroad.

Nick Hillman is concerned that talented students are looking at universities in countries other than the UK because of the Government’s attitude to UK visas for students. There are concerns that the Government’s efforts to reduce UK immigration will result in the targeting of university admissions.

Mr Hillman, a director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and former aide to universities minister David Willetts, told The Daily Telegraph: “The idea that international students take more from the UK than they contribute is not getting through because it doesn’t ring true. Foreign students support our universities, but they also support our small businesses and our local communities.”

His views appear to be shared by would-be Conservative MPs. A survey of prospective parliamentary candidates for the party found that three-quarters agreed that overseas students should not be counted in targets to cut net migration to the UK. Nearly seven in 10 also supported UK efforts to recruit all foreign students legitimately hoping to study in Britain.

However, the research, commissioned by HEPI, found that nearly 90 per cent of those questioned did not believe that international students should have the automatic right to remain in the UK for work purposes after their study period was over.

Mr Hillman said: “If we don’t match our key competitors that automatically allow international students to work for a while after studying, then we will go on losing market share. The whole university sector must redouble its efforts to explain the benefits that post-study work
can offer.”