Immigration minister wants more scrutiny of ‘value’ of foreign students

Expanding the number of international students in the UK is not necessarily a good thing, immigration minister Damian Green has suggested.

February 2, 2012

Speaking at the Policy Exchange thinktank in London today, Mr Green said the debate on the economic and social benefits of study immigration had become “polarised” and “needs to move on”.

Export earnings from overseas students in 2010 were about £8.4 billion, according to government estimates, but Mr Green said that a “better understanding of the economic and social costs of student migration” is needed.

On the national debate over student immigration, he said: “It has been a polarised one, with a drive to stop bogus colleges and bogus students on the one hand, and a desire to expand international student numbers for the greater economic good on the other.

“Somewhere in between there is a discussion to be had about the legitimate students coming here. Of course, international students bring economic and wider benefits.

“But, as the [Migratory Advisory Committee] said in their recent report on impacts, there is scope for further examination of whether and to what extent foreign student tuition fees boost the UK economy and, crucially, how UK residents ultimately benefit from that.”

Mr Green said there needed to be a “focus on quality, rather than quantity”.

He added: “The principle of selectivity should apply to student migration just as it does to work migration.”

The new visa system ensured “only high-quality genuine students can come to the UK to study with legitimate education providers”, he claimed.

His speech follows serious concerns over the changes to the government’s student visa rules, which have been introduced in an attempt to lower net migration from about 250,000 a year to the “ten of thousands” by the end of this parliament.

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