However, today’s quarterly migration figures – from the Office for National Statistics – also show a rise in net migration thanks to a fall in the number of people emigrating from the UK.
That may prompt the government to further tighten the rules for overseas students in a bid to meet its target of reducing net migration to the “tens of thousands” by 2015.
The figures suggest that the further education and schools sectors, rather than higher education, have borne the brunt of the government’s visa crackdown.
The ONS says in its bulletin: “Sponsored study visas applications fell 2 per cent in the year ending June 2013. This change was not uniform, with a 4 per cent increase for the university sector and falls of 25 per cent, 16 per cent and 3 per cent, respectively, for further education, English language schools and independent schools.”
There were a total of 204,469 study visas issued in the year to June 2013, a fall of 5 per cent compared with the previous year.
The Home Office says in a statement that the figures show “that our reforms are having the desired effect – tightening the immigration routes where abuse was rife, but still encouraging the brightest and best to come here to study and work”.
Net migration to the UK rose to 176,000 in the year ending December 2012. The previous figures, for the year ending September 2012, had showed a net migration total of 153,000.
“This increase suggests the decline seen in net migration on a rolling quarterly basis since the year ending June 2011 has not continued,” the ONS says.
Universities have been lobbying the government to exclude university students from its target to reduce net migration, which would spare higher education from the drive to reduce immigration.