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Evidence is clear – international students must be retained

London First reacts to the announcement of a government study into the effect of international students on the UK’s society and economy and the decline in international student numbers shown in today’s ONS Migration Statistics.

Jasmine Whitbread, chief executive, said: “This is a welcome change in tone from the government and it’s great to see the Home Secretary insisting on evidence, rather than the political stubbornness we saw from Number 10 before the election – but we must act quickly.

“The evidence shows international students have an overwhelmingly positive effect, each bringing around £40,000 to local businesses and an overall £2.3 billion to the UK economy each year, alongside invaluable and long term ties.

“But the UK is already losing its lustre for international students, with 27,000 fewer choosing to study at UK universities. At the start of a new academic year, we should be sending the signal that the UK is open to talent rather than dithering about looking for evidence that already exists.”

Background data

  • London’s international students bring a net benefit of £2.3 billion per annum to our economy. That’s around £34,122 per student (‘London Calling: International students’ contribution to Britain’s economic growth’ London First report with PwC).
  • Universities UK public opinion research shows that only 24% of respondents believe that international students should be classified as migrants (New poll – cutting international student numbers will not address public immigration concerns, October 2016)
  • The UK needs to improve how it records international students leaving the UK after they’ve finished studying. The government has previously claimed that tens of thousands of international student “vanish”. But a Home Office analysis put the figure at 1500, only 1% of international students, and the Office for Statistics Regulation has said the ONS data “may not provide a complete and coherent picture” and is therefore “not of sufficiently high quality to meet the needs of users” (FT, 27 July 2017).

ONS Migration Statistics Quarterly Report: August 2017

  • ONS data shows long-term immigration to study (139,000 people) for all nationalities saw a statistically significant decrease of 27,000 from YE March 2016, reflecting the decrease reported in YE September 2016; Of those whose main reason for long-term immigration was study, the majority (93,000 or 69%) were non-EU citizens– a statistically significant decrease of 20,000 on the previous year.

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