UK government to investigate impact of overseas students

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Home Secretary Amber Rudd is launching an investigation into the impact of international students on the UK’s society and economy.

It will look at the effect EU and non-EU students have on the UK labour market while they are in the UK.

The study is being launched on Thursday, as the UK publishes its latest migration estimates.

The first data from new exit checks at ports and airports will also be released.

The UK stopped counting people in and out of the country in the 1990s, casting doubt on the accuracy of official immigration estimates, which are based on a random survey at points of entry.

A much-delayed new exit-check system was introduced in April 2015 with aim of building a more complete picture of whether those who entered the UK left when they were supposed to.

‘No limit’

There has been particular focus on the large gap between estimates of arrivals and departures of foreign nationals who come to Britain to study.

The difference – which averaged about 110,000 a year between 2012 and 2015 – fuelled questions over whether students were remaining in the country beyond the end of their courses.

Long-term immigration of students to the UK was approximately 136,000 last year, with an estimated 63,000 emigrating to the country having originally gone there to study.

Amber Rudd said: “There is no limit to the number of genuine international students who can come to the UK to study, and the fact that we remain the second most popular global destination for those seeking higher education is something to be proud of.

“We understand how important students from around the world are to our higher education sector, which is a key export for our country, and that’s why we want to have a robust and independent evidence base of their value and the impact they have.”

‘Detailed examination’

The in-depth analysis of international students, to be carried out by the government’s Migration Advisory Committee, will also look at the impact of tuition fees and other spending by foreign students on the national, regional and local economies.

It will also consider the impact their recruitment has on the quality of education given to domestic students.

The committee is due to report back by September next year.

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, said: “We welcome the government’s commitment to a detailed examination of the net benefits of international students.

“This is an opportunity to build on the considerable evidence that shows that international students have a very positive impact on the UK economy and local communities.”

Lord Green of Deddington, who chairs Migration Watch UK, also backed the new study, saying: “For too long the higher education lobby have had the field for themselves.

“The government will now be able to formulate policy on the basis of more wide-ranging evidence.”

Prime Minister Theresa May has resisted calls to remove students from her overall net migration target of 100,000.

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