Universities Scotland today (Thursday, 13th September) welcomed the announcement from David Willets, UK Government Minister for Universities and Science, that the UK Government will publish disaggregated figures for net migration, reporting separately on international students. The Minister made the announcement earlier today, during his morning address to the Universities UK annual conference taking place at the University of Keele (11-13 September).
Universities Scotland and Universities UK have been calling for a removal of international students from the net migration targets on the basis that international students are not economic migrants and return to their home country on competition of their studies . Such a move would bring the UK’s immigration policy into line with competitor countries. The current policy puts Scotland’s universities, as well as those in the rest of the UK at a competitive disadvantage in the recruitment of international students. The call has broad support from all political parties in Scotland as well as from business and industry.
Today’s announcement does not go that far but is a welcome step and suggests the UK Government’s recognition of the different immigration status of international students.
Reacting to the announcement, Alastair Sim, Director of Universities Scotland, said:
“We hold strongly to the view that international students should not be counted towards the UK’s net migration figures. International students’ reasons for coming to the UK are not the same as economic migrants; unlike other migrants they return home on completion of their studies. The current VISA limitations put our universities at a real competitive disadvantage relative to other countries.
“Today’s announcement, to disaggregate international students from the wider migration figures, is a welcome step in the right direction on the part of the UK Government. We would like to see the UK Government go further and exclude international students from net migration targets. We have support for this position from across the Scottish Parliament and from Scottish business and industry.
“International students make a significant contribution to Scotland economically, culturally and socially and the fact that they return to their home countries after study helps to foster deep personal connections between Scotland and the global economy. We cannot afford to under-estimate their value to Scotland and the UK.”