UK’s ‘unwelcoming’ immigration policy has led to an unprecedented fall in international Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) student numbers, a new report by the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee shows.
The report shows that international STEM student enrolments have fallen by more than 10% in the last two years.
In the report, entitled “International Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) students”, the Lords ask the government to rethink their contradictory immigration policy.
The Lords observe that the government is simultaneously committed to reducing net migration and attracting increasing numbers of international students (15–20% over the next five years). This contradiction, the Lords say, could be resolved if the government removed students, who comprise a majority of non-EU immigrants, from the net migration figures.
“When we really need to send the message that international STEM students will get a warm welcome in the UK, they’re getting the cold shoulder and heading elsewhere,” Lord Krebs, Chair of the Committee, said. “We’ve seen over the last few years how international student numbers have fallen dramatically, in particular from India. As a result we’re missing out on the talent, the economic and cultural contribution that international students bring when they come here to study, and our competitors are reaping the rewards.”
Lord Krebs went on to say that: “The overwhelming evidence that we received led us to conclude that changes to the immigration rules in this country have played a direct part in putting overseas students off from choosing the UK. The rules are seen as too complex and subject to endless changes, the visa costs are not competitive, and the rules relating to work after study are so limiting that prospective students are heading to the US, Australia, Canada and elsewhere.”
The Lords report calls for a simpler UK immigration policy. It notes that international students make a huge contribution to the academic, intellectual and cultural vibrancy of UK universities, also enriching the experience for domestic students.
The report further notes that international students contribute very significantly to university finances, often partly subsidising courses for domestic students. Some courses, particularly taught Masters, are made viable by international student enrolments, and a fall in international student numbers poses a real threat. In terms of the labour market, UK Plc is missing out on highly skilled workers, the Lords said.
“We are calling on the Government to overhaul its immigration policies – in particular it needs to do away with the new rules on working after study. Allowing just four months for a student to find work after graduation is more or less tantamount to telling overseas students they’d be better off going to study elsewhere,” Lord Krebs said.