In a speech this morning, the shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said that the party would consult on “applying different targets and controls to different kinds of immigration so we can help our universities compete in a growing global market”.
International students should be “immediately” removed from the coalition’s net migration targets, she said.
The government has pledged to reduce net migration to the “tens of thousands” by next year, although the latest figures showed a shock rise to 212,000.
Ms Cooper criticised this policy which “treats all legal immigration in the same way – be it university students or low skilled migrant workers, refugees or family members – as something bad for Britain that should be reduced.”
“Fee paying international students at our universities – who are in the target – have fallen for the first time for 20 years, cutting the investment they bring into Britain,” she said, something that was “deeply damaging to our economy”.
“We want to see more fee paying university students. Higher education is one of Britain’s biggest exports worth over £10 billion a year. And business leaders from across the globe were educated at Britain’s universities,” she added.
But Ms Cooper said Labour wanted to see “stronger controls” on short-term student visitor visas because these were being “abused”.