UK universities are “centres for shaping the thoughts of the future elite in the world” according to a report by a House of Lords committee, which stresses how higher education boosts the “soft power” of Britain globally.
The select committee on “Soft Power and the UK’s Influence” also recommended that the government remove students from its net migration targets – making it the sixth parliamentary committee to do so.
Persuasion and Power in the Modern World, released today, cites evidence that overseas students who are educated in Britain “develop an awareness and respect for UK culture, governance, institutions and history” and also gain exposure to “UK norms and cultural values”.
Ninety-five per cent of international alumni of British universities are “positively orientated” towards the UK, the publication reports.
It therefore calls on the government to remove students from its target to reduce net migration to the “tens of thousands” by the end of this parliament in 2015.
“The Government must work harder to ensure that their efforts to cut migration by those who would not add to the UK’s wellbeing do not prevent those whose presence would further the UK’s domestic and international interests from seeing the UK as welcoming,” it warns.
Earlier this year it emerged that the number of international students in the UK fell, for the first time on record, in 2012-13.
Including students in the target is “not only destructive of the UK’s attractiveness and international links, but is disingenuous”, the report says.
The government has argued by counting students as migrants, it is following a definition set by the United Nations, and also pointed out to the select committee that 16 per cent of people granted settlement in the UK in 2011 came to the country as students.
But today’s report counters that there are other definitions the government could use, for example from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the US Department for Homeland Security, that do not automatically count students as immigrants.
“We note that we are the sixth Select Committee to recommend in this Parliament that the Government remove international students from the net migration target,” the report adds.