The UK Independence Party would remove international students from immigration figures, leaving the Conservatives as the only party not advocating a policy switch.
Universities UK has long advocated removing university-sponsored non-European Union students from net migration targets, which it believes would spare overseas recruitment from being squeezed in the government’s drive to cut net migration to the “tens of thousands” by 2015.
News of Ukip’s policy emerged following its conference last month in Doncaster.
A spokesman for the party said: “Ukip knows that the UK has some of the finest educational establishments in the world, and we believe that students from around the world should be encouraged to come here to study in our first-class facilities.
“We do not feel the need to add student numbers into the country’s migration figures because they are usually here on student visas, unless they are from within the EU.”
He added: “These potential students will have to meet the correct criteria, varying from financial support and qualification. Our policy is that every student who is not a citizen of Great Britain should be able to apply to study here under a short-term student visa varying from one, three and five years.
“After their visa…has expired they will have to apply for permanent residency if they have found employment within a specific sector. If not then they will have to return to their country of origin.” ?
However, Ukip has also said that it would class EU students the same as non-EU students.
The party’s commitment is to “charge the 70,000 university students from the EU the same amount in tuition fees as foreign students from non-EU countries, raising £600 million per year”, it said in a statement during its conference.
Such a policy would not be legal at present and could be achieved only if the UK left the EU.
Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, has called for students to be taken out of net migration figures, and Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, recently confirmed that a Labour government would not include students in targets on immigration.