The UK’s ongoing crackdown on immigration is making it less desirable as a study destination, said the new all-party parliamentary group (APPG) for international students.

Students who are put off by the UK’s increasingly strict immigration policies are now choosing countries with more attractive post study work opportunities such as Australia and Canada instead, said the APPG’s co-chairman Lord Bilimoria.

The APPG for international students, in a statement following its inaugural meeting, urged the government to “disentangle” students from the immigration debate.

Since the closure of the Post Study Work route in 2012, members of parliament and academics have voiced their disagreement, saying that the move has had a negative impact on UK universities, which are now losing out in the global race to attract international students.

Many have asked that students be removed from net migration targets, but the government has held firm on its stance, as a Home Office spokesman said: “All types of immigration have an impact.”

Last month it was revealed that in every year from 2013 to 2015, more than 30,000 non-EU students have had their visas to remain in the UK curtailed.

In response, the National Union of Students (NUS) international students’ officer Mostafa Rajaai said that the figures were “clear evidence the Home Office is following a political agenda, rather than trying to remove real cheats”.

“It has a clear disregard for the right to a fair trial and the past six years have seen the steady erosion of international students’ rights within the UK,” he said.

According to Rajaai, NUS research has found that most non-EU students felt that the government was unwelcoming towards international students.

“If the government continues to scapegoat overseas students in order to hit its immigration targets, the damage to the UK’s reputation as a desirable place to study will only worsen,” he said.

Higher education advocacy group Universities UK also described the trends in international student recruitment as “worrying”, as last year, Canada leapfrogged over the UK as a more popular destination for international undergraduates.

During the meeting, the APPG’s co-chairman Paul Blomfield said that international students were recognized for bringing “enormous economic and cultural benefits” to the country.

“Student numbers are holding up in a growing market, but the reality is that we are losing market share.

“We should not be content with flat-lining figures or small increases in international numbers, but should work to show international students they are welcome across the UK,” the BBC reported him saying. 

The APPG for international student was set up in order to:

  • promote the value of international students to the UK economy and employment
  • encourage overseas governments to send students to the UK
  • publicise the value of international students to the UK’s “soft power”
  • highlight changes that might harm the international education sector
  • develop policies to enhance overseas students’ experience in the UK and extend its share of the market

Featured Image via Flickr.

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