Prime Minister David Cameron’s robust defence of the inclusion of international students in the Office for National Statistics’ net migration data is highly indicative of the government’s need to engage with this domain to fulfil its commitment to reduce those figures (“Cameron rules out overseas student change”, 12 March). Indeed, it seems to be the only element within the data that is directly controllable by the state.
It is extremely questionable that removing international student numbers from the figures “would not make any difference to our student migration policy”. I would argue that it would make a considerable difference to coalition policy, for then its “growth” manifesto pledge would eclipse its “migration” commitment, and the draconian controls inflicted on the international student market by the Home Office would ease.
Indeed, it is regrettable that in times of economic hardship, any government would sacrifice such a vital export simply to massage statistical figures for electoral reasons.