Foreign students should not be included in net migration statistics since this creates a “perverse incentive” for the Government to drive down their numbers, a report has argued.
The report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), urges the Government to switch to a more rational method of measuring student migration flows.
Only students who stay on in the UK permanently should be included in net migration figures, the report says.
IPPR’s report argues that only around 15 per cent of students stay permanently and contribute to long-term net migration.
IPPR’s analysis suggests that the current method of measuring student migration flows provides the Government with an opportunity to “game” its own 2015 net migration target by reducing the number of genuine international students coming to the UK in 2012-14.
Although this would have little impact on real long-term net migration – because most students do not stay long-term – it would have a significant short-term impact on the target.
The report shows that planned Government reductions in student migration would cost the UK £2-3bn a year in economic contributions from the loss of 50,000 students per year while having only a small impact on long-term net migration.
The report recommends that the Government switch to a more rational method of measuring student flows, which would give a true picture of the trade-offs between controlling long-term net migration and the benefits of international students to the economy and the education sector.
“The Government need to take international students out of the immigration ‘numbers game’, which is damaging our universities and colleges, our economy and our international standing,” Sarah Mulley, IPPR Associate Director, said. “This would enable Ministers to move back to a policy that supports rather than penalises one of the UK’s most important industries and sources of both future growth and global influence, without in any way hampering its stated objectives of controlling long-term net migration and continuing to target abuse of the student visa system.”