Home UK Immigration Official review attacks May’s ‘tens of thousands’ immigration target and says it should be made EASIER for foreign students to stay on in the UK

Official review attacks May’s ‘tens of thousands’ immigration target and says it should be made EASIER for foreign students to stay on in the UK

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An official review today attacked Theresa May’s immigration target – and insisted it should be made easier for foreign students to stay on in the UK.

The aim of bringing net inflows below 100,000 a year has been giving the wrong ‘impression’ and is out of step with other countries, according to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) report.

It also suggested extending leave to remain for all Masters and PHD students from overseas, despite raising issue about the low earnings some were reporting.

The findings came in an government-commissioned study that backed Mrs May’s argument that foreign students should feature in the net migration figures.

Universities – privately a number of ministers – had hoped the research would urge their removal from the overall goal.

However, the MAC concluded that international students should not be removed from the overall international net migration statistics, which reflect the difference between the numbers of people arriving and leaving for at least 12 months.

The report found that excluding students from the Tories’ net migration target of less than 100,000 a year would be ‘difficult technically’ and would make ‘almost no difference’ to the figures.

MAC chairman Professor Alan Manning said international students bring ‘clear benefits’ to the UK.

‘They support the education of domestic students, research and local economies,’ he said.

‘Graduates are an important source of skilled workers for the UK economy and boost the UK’s soft power.’

While the UK has a ‘strong position’ in the market for international students, there are no grounds for complacency as competition is ‘intense’, he said.

Prof Manning added: ‘Our proposals are designed to make it easier for the sector and the Government to work together to grow the number of students, and for those students to move into skilled work.’

Over three quarters of a million people come to the UK each year to study.

Students from the European Economic Area are subject to ‘light-touch’ requirements, while those from the rest of the world require a visa.

In August last year the MAC was asked by the Government to carry out analysis of the impact of international students on the UK’s education system, economy and society.

After changes to post-study visa rules in 2012, the numbers applying for work extensions have dropped sharply from over 45,000 to around 6,000, the Committee’s 117-page report said.

It noted that while many international students who remain for work report similar pay levels to UK graduates, a ‘sizeable’ group of non-EU students seem to have ‘surprisingly low’ earnings.

While the lowest quarter of British masters graduates had average earnings of £20,500, the figure for those from outside the EU was just £15,400.

The MAC said many responses to a call for evidence wanted a more generous post-study work regime.

Currently, PhD visas allow students to remain in the UK for four months after expected course completion, although to an extension scheme that permits a year of work.

Masters students also have up to four months, except those in a pilot programme allowing six months.

The MAC recommended that PhD students automatically get one year’s leave to remain after finishing their courses.

It proposed an extension to six months for all Masters students, but called for a ‘more thorough’ review of whether this is appropriate.

In a finding the Committee acknowledged would disappoint the higher education sector, it did not recommend a separate post-study work visa scheme.

On the Government’s net migration target, which has never been met, the report said removing students ‘would be difficult technically and, if done correctly, would make almost no difference to the net migration figures’.

However, it suggested there may be an ‘image problem’ fuelled by ‘repeated discussions’ of students in the net migration target.

‘If there is a problem with students in the net migration target, it is with the target itself rather than the inclusion of students in that target,’ Prof Manning said.

‘Summarising migration policy through the net migration target may give the impression that the government seeks to reduce the net migration of all types of migrants including students.’

The report pointed out that other countries did not calculate equivalent net migration figures that were used to set targets.

It added: ‘The net migration target is a political target and the IPS net migration figure does not have to form the basis of the government’s net migration target.

‘The government could choose to use other data sources to set targets related to migration, such as visa or settlement statistics. Or it could choose not to have a target at all and summarise its ambitions on net migration in a different way.’

The Committee also concluded international student numbers should remain uncapped.

Lord Green of Deddington, chairman of campaign group Migration Watch UK, welcomed the ‘excellent’ report.

He said: ‘The MAC endorsement of the inclusion of students in the migration statistics should put this issue to bed. It is also right that the post-study work regime should remain carefully policed.’

A Home Office spokesman said: ‘As this report makes clear, international students play an important and positive role in our education system, economy and society.

‘We are committed to ensuring we continue to attract the best international students.’

Professor Dame Janet Beer, president of Universities UK, said: ‘While the report recognises the enormous contribution international students make to life in the UK, we are disappointed with its main recommendations.

‘We agree that the Government and the sector should continue to work together to grow the number of international students, but growth will only be possible if we have an immigration system that encourages talented international students to choose the UK.’

Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6155709/Official-review-says-EASIER-foreign-students-stay-UK.html

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