Public support removal of students from UK net migration target

The British public do not consider international students studying in the UK as “immigrants”, and want the government to remove them from the net migration targets, a new research has revealed.

Only a fifth (22%) of the people surveyed think that international students count as “immigrants” at all, and commonly react with “surprise and even bafflement” when they are told that students are included in immigration targets.

The research carried out on behalf of Universities UK and think-tank British Future challenges the government to remove international students from the net migration targets. It also supports universities to attract more international students to study in the UK.

According to the research, 60% of people consider international students beneficial to the areas in which they live and study by bringing money to the local economy. This figure rises to 66% of people living in university towns.

Most people (59%) are opposed to any efforts to reduce the number of international students in the UK, rising to two-thirds (66%) of Conservative voters.

In the foreword to the report, Mark Field MP, Chairman of Conservatives for Managed Migration, argues that the public already makes distinctions between different types of immigration, and that their views on international students show “a pragmatic and nuanced view about the kinds of migration that best reflect our nation’s interests and values.”

It also emerges that the majority of the public (75%) think international students should be allowed to stay and work in Britain for some period of time after they graduate, bringing their skills to British companies rather than to the country’s international competitors. Just 13% say they should not be allowed to stay.

The attempt to get net migration down by targeting international student numbers would be unpopular and would fail to address the public’s anxieties about immigration, the report shows.

The move, the report warns, would cost Britain the widely-recognised benefits that those students bring, both to local economies and to the UK’s universities.

“If the UK wants to fulfil its potential in this growth area, it must present a welcoming climate for genuine international students and ensure that visa and immigration rules are proportionate and communicated properly,” says Professor Sir Christopher Snowden of Universities UK.

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