'No practical way' to remove international student from UK migration targets - report
More than half of Cardiff Metropolitan University students are a from abroad, according to QS. Source: Facebook/Cardiff Metropolitan University

There is no clear case to remove international students from the UK’s target to reduce migration, a government-commissioned report by the Migration Advisory Committee has advised.

The report, commissioned August last year to look at the impact of international students on the UK financially and otherwise, said there is no easy way to remove this group of students from the immigration target.

“Many of the respondents argued that students should be taken out of the government’s net migration target. None suggested a practical way that this might be done,” the report said.

“We cannot see a reliable method. Even if a method were to be found, it would be unlikely to make much difference to the migration statistics.”

The target was introduced by previous UK prime minister David Cameron as a broad measure to reduce migration to the country by “tens of thousands”. Despite strong opposition from within her own party, current prime minister Theresa May has refused to back down her pledge as interior minister eight years ago to reduce them to under 100,000 a year.

This immigration policy has had an unwelcoming effect on the more than 750,000 international students who come to Britain each year to study, industry figures say. In July, researchers at University College London’s Centre for Global Higher Education also found that Australia is overtaking the UK as the world’s second-biggest destination for international students, a result many argue is the fault of the government’s increasingly hostile attitude towards students from abroad.

Responding to MAC’s report, Universities UK said it was “disappointed” with its recommendation in a statement.

University of Liverpool vice-chancellor and representative body president Professor Dame Janet Beer said: “While the UK continues to count international students as long-term migrants in its net migration target, there is a continued pressure to reduce their numbers. This adds to the perception that they are not welcome here.”

“In countries such as the US, Canada and Australia, international students are classified as temporary migrants, alongside tourists and visitors. A change of policy from government in this area would have public backing. Polling suggests that the British public does not see international students as long-term migrants, but as valuable, temporary visitors,” she explained.

UK could be doing “much better than this,” she said, by developing an immigration policy that “recognises the value of international students as temporary visitors and tells the world that they are welcome here”.

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