International students may be removed from the net migration figure calculations, according to remarks made by the Chancellor George Osborne.
There has been controversy surrounding the tightening of criteria for overseas students seeking a UK visa to study in Britain and also the removal of their right to remain in the UK to look for work after completing their courses. The changes and perception that the UK is not welcoming to international students has led to a sharp decline in the numbers of Indian students in particular who are choosing to study in the UK.
But Mr Osborne suggested to MPs that overseas students could be removed from the figures during a session with the Commons Treasury Select Committee.
The Chancellor said: “The current way the UK calculates its migration numbers they [migrants] are included, but if you talk about the Government’s commitment on reducing migration, I would say where that strikes a public chord and has public sympathy is where we are trying to reduce permanent migration to the country.”
He also told MPs that “students come and go, and I think that is a good thing for the UK”.
Mr Osborne also told the meeting that plans to impose more stringent English language requirements and restrict the work rights of overseas students’ dependents, suggested by Home Secretary Theresa May, were “not government proposals”.
He added: “I’m not aware that there has been any agreement in the Government or any hard and fast proposals that have been discussed.”
It is understood that the Chancellor’s stance is supported by Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Business Secretary Sajid Javid, which would leave Mrs May with little Cabinet backing for her tougher proposals.
Mrs May’s department is responsible for reducing net migration to the “tens of thousands” figure the Government has committed itself to achieving.