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Quarterly ONS migration stats mask a ‘worrying decline’ in traditional foreign student markets

In response to today’s Migration Statistics Quarterly Report from the Office for National Statistics, Mark Hilton, Head of Immigration Policy at London First, said:

“The importance of encouraging foreign students coming to the UK should not be underestimated – this is our eighth biggest export industry, valued at £8 billion.

“The latest ONS figures show a small rise – 3% – in study visas overall, which is to be welcomed.

“But they mask a worrying decline in our traditional markets, with the number of Indian students being granted visas falling 24%.

“To put this in context, the total number of visas issued for study purposes to Chinese students in the year ending September 2013 was 4,685. This was roughly equal to the 4,343 drop in Indian student visas, which fell from 18,154 to 13,811.

“So we’re actually treading water while countries like the US and Australia are aggressively promoting themselves to international students.

“The critical mass of talented people from around the globe that come to the UK, and London in particular, is a major competitive advantage.

“While we must engage with new markets like China, we ignore our traditional ones – which remain much larger – at our peril.”

 

FURTHER DETAIL:

Value of students

  • BIS: value of UK education exports 2011 (fees, living expenses, transnational education in HE, FE, English language training teaching) is £17.5 billion with a further £9.6 billion from FDI in education-related projects (research and consultancy).
  • This makes tertiary education 8th largest export market (ahead of pharma for example).
  • The UK is second only to the USA in terms of its market share of internationally-mobile higher education students (13% of global total – Government figures), and London is the most popular city in the world for international students (110k worth some £3bn in fees and spend, 60% nonEU, 40% EU – PA Consulting)

Public policy towards students is very confused:

  • On the one hand, BIS’s international education strategy (2013) argues it is realistic for UK’s international student numbers to grow by up to 20% over the next five years, equating to 90,000 students.
  • On the other, as the Government cannot control emigration or EU migration, to meet its target all it can do is bring down the number of non-EU migrants – and this has to mean students because they make up such a large percentage of the controllable flows (40%)
  • Rapid growth in the number of students studying abroad presents a real opportunity for the UK. In 2010, there were 4.1 million tertiary-level students across the world studying outside their country of citizenship. By 2020, estimates suggest the number will reach 7 million.  This is estimated to include 1 in 3 Chinese students.
  • Case study: Indian students are well represented in accountancy and at one of the international accountancy firms we have in membership, are by far the greatest proportion of their non-EU workforce.  This firm is concerned that the drop in numbers of Indian students coming to study in the UK is cutting the amount of global talent that they can access to support their trade in the important and emerging Indo-UK corridor – they will recruit Indian students from UK universities, train them up in London and use them/export them to support their growing India operations.

Narrowing the field of graduate recruitment in this way means fewer Indians with experience of working in the UK, which is crucial in supporting long term trading links between our countries

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