David Cameron has today written to Labour MP Adrian Bailey, chair of the Business Innovation and Skills Select Committee, in a letter that appears to finally kill off universities’ hopes of securing the change.
On 30 January, Mr Bailey was one of the five chairs of Parliamentary committees who wrote to Mr Cameron urging to him to take students out of the target, a move that would spare universities from the impact of the government’s drive to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands by 2015.
But Mr Cameron says: “Students will continue to count in the Office for National Statistics’ net migration figures because as statisticians, immigration experts and foreign governments agree, students who stay for more than twelve months are migrants.
“Net migration measures the difference between the number of people coming to the UK and the number leaving, so if students return home after their studies, their impact on long-term net migration will be minimal.”
He adds: “Changing the way we measure migration would not make any difference to our student migration policy.”
Mr Cameron tells Mr Bailey that the UK “has a fantastic offer for international students”, adding: “The coalition’s mid-term review confirmed we will place no cap on the number of genuine students coming from across the world to study in this country, but will extend interviews rapidly to crack down on bogus students.”
And he praises the coalition’s commitment to provide 1,000 places a year for MBA graduates who want to stay in Britain and start up businesses, and allow PhD students to stay on for 12 months to find skilled work or start as an entrepreneur.
“This will send a strong signal that the UK wants to attract and retain the brightest and best international students,” Mr Cameron says. “I made clear in my recent trip to India that talented students who choose a UK university will find a warm welcome here.”