Student Visas - Home Affairs Committee Contents

5  Conclusions

99. The review of the student immigration system is part of a concerted effort by the Government to reduce net migration figures. The Government has stated that it does not wish to target legitimate students but, at the same time, we would caution against measures which could be detrimental to a thriving, successful industry. The export of education is not only economically beneficial to this country but also vital to the UK's international relations.

100. Although the UN requires students to be included in migration figures, we are not persuaded that students are in fact migrants. Only if a student or former student seeks settlement—or the length of time they have spent in the country is excessive—should their status in the UK be regarded as that of a migrant rather than a student visitor. This is not to soften the approach to reducing immigration numbers but to recognise that not all students remain permanently, that those who do make a significant contribution to the economy, and that students who come to this country benefit us economically—through the payment of fees and wider spending—as well as contributing significantly to strengthening and enhancing Britain's place in the world.

101. Government policy ought to be evidence-based. We are concerned that a policy based on flawed evidence could damage the UK education sector and could have wider implications. We strongly urge the Government to examine the data which it currently uses to extrapolate migration figures. Whilst we are aware that it cannot do so in time to coincide with this policy announcement, we are convinced that it ought to be a priority for the near-future.

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Prepared 25 March 2011