Stop vilifying foreign students

It’s not about numbers

GMT 18:48 Friday ,12 January 2018

 Migrant Voice - It’s not about numbers

Photo by the University of the Fraser Valley
MV

A group of Conservative MPs are reportedly lobbying Prime Minister Theresa May to take international students out of the net migration figures.

They are right.

About 230,000 foreign students start courses in Britain every year. They form a big chunk of the estimated 588,000 migrants a year who enter Britain. So they have become a key part of the national controversy about immigration. 

They should be removed from the statistics and the debate.

They bring money, for fees and for living. On 11 January a Higher Education Policy Institute report said that international students contribute more than £20 billion to the UK economy each year.

Their fees make a crucial contribution to the finances of universities, one of this country’s most valuable resources.

Foreign students bring talents and contribute to research and science to say nothing of the sandwich shops, the bike shops, the taxi firms, the nightclubs, the bookshops.

An estimated 97 per cent return to the countries of origin – though we believe more should be allowed to stay, by relaxing severe restrictions on post-study work visas.

When they return home and get jobs they often use contacts and links made in Britain, which translates into orders for services, products and equipment.

Those who remain are not a burden. They are highly educated, they stay on to work.

Students educated here will have a lifetime connection to Britain. The benefits are mutual. Politicians like to talk of win-win situations. For once, the phrase is appropriate.

Each foreign student is a link for us to the rest of the world, which is an even bigger consideration post-Brexit than pre-Brexit.

They are the living embodiment of our priceless “soft power”.

Overall, students are a huge, positive, influential, multi-billion-pound factor in our national life and well-being.

To say no to foreign students would be as absurd and self-harming as voluntarily curbing our vehicle exports. But because the government has set immigration targets it cannot meet, allied with the fiction that migration is responsible for all our social and economic problems, the ill-informed national debate on migration is fuelled by numbers rather than needs. As a result, students are being vilified and we are beginning to see a downturn in their numbers.

Bizarrely, Britain is one of the few countries without a strategy for increasing international student numbers.

Migrant Voice recommends:

  • Students should be should be encouraged and welcomed
  • They should be removed from the national migration target, which should in any case be scrapped
  • The issuing of post-study work visas should be liberalised and extended
 

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