Free them from the net

April 26, 2012

Edward Acton's suggestion that international students be removed from net migration figures should be adopted if the UK is to build on one of its strongest exports ("Why so prickly?", 19 April). Indeed, David Willetts seems keen to see the sector grow: he announced at the Higher Education Funding Council for England annual conference this year that the UK had only "scratched the surface" of the market and that we needed to position ourselves to take advantage of the growth in the global sector - Unesco forecasts more than 100 million more higher education students by 2025.

This strategic positioning will need to be well publicised if it is to counter the damage done by the coalition's seemingly endless Tier 4 revisions. More importantly, it must be approached consistently by all government departments. At the moment, Willetts and Cable v May and Green is leading to repeated triumphs for the Home Office and the UK Border Agency, as the government at large seems happy to stifle the growth of a sector just to satisfy an immigration mandate.

If even MigrationWatch UK is in favour of legitimate education tourists, as Acton says, we should be welcoming them with open arms.

James Pitman, Managing director, HE - UK and Europe, Study Group

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