Overseas students should not count towards net migration, say MPs

A committee of MPs has called on the government to exclude overseas students from figures on net migration, warning that current policy risks "undermining a world class export market".

September 6, 2012

The Business, Innovation and Skills committee makes the call in a report, Overseas students and net migration, published today following an inquiry that took evidence from Universities UK, former immigration minister Damian Green and the Institute of Directors.

The report comes a week after the UK Border Agency's decision to strip London Metropolitan University of its licence to recruit international students.

The committee says in its report: "While we accept that the government has made a clear political commitment to reduce net migration, the inclusion of overseas students at accredited institutions in the overall total is misleading.

"Furthermore, it runs the risk of undermining a world-class export market. Given the existing number of overseas students studying in the United Kingdom, the government's ambition to limit net migration to the 'tens of thousands' is clearly in conflict with the ambition to expand the United Kingdom's share of the overseas student market."

The report was endorsed by all of the committee, made up of five Conservative MPs, five Labour and one Liberal Democrat. By voting for the report, the Conservative backbenchers appear to be in conflict with their own party's policy on immigration.

The report notes that in January 2012 the number of applications from overseas students to attend UK universities had increased by 13 per cent compared with the previous year. However, the equivalent figure in May 2012 was 10 per cent, while the June figure was 8.5 per cent.

The report says it is "clear that the government's policies in respect of student immigration have played a significant part in this decline".

The committee report will be a huge boost for UUK, which has lobbied hard in its bid for university-sponsored international students to be excluded from the net migrant count.

The committee also says: "The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has a responsibility to support UK universities, and to promote export success. As a matter of urgency it needs to demonstrate that it has an active strategy to support the expansion of this important and lucrative market."

Paul Blomfield, a Labour member of the BIS committee, said: "We need to undo the damage of previous policy and the Home Office response to problems at London Met, with a fresh approach that sends a clear message around the world that international students are welcome in the UK.

"I hope that the new immigration minister [Mark Harper] takes our report's recommendations very seriously. Taking students out of net migration targets would get him off to a very good start in his job."


You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Assistant Recruitment - Human Resources Office

University Of Nottingham Ningbo China

Outreach Officer

Gsm London

Professorship in Geomatics

Norwegian University Of Science & Technology -ntnu

Professor of European History

Newcastle University

Head of Department

University Of Chichester
See all jobs

Most Commented

men in office with feet on desk. Vintage

Three-quarters of respondents are dissatisfied with the people running their institutions

students use laptops

Researchers say students who use computers score half a grade lower than those who write notes

Canal houses, Amsterdam, Netherlands

All three of England’s for-profit universities owned in Netherlands

Humboldt University, Berlin

As the country succeeds in attracting even more students from overseas, a mixture of demographics, ‘soft power’ concerns and local politics help explain its policy

sitting by statue

Institutions told they have a ‘culture of excluding postgraduates’ in wake of damning study