Student Visas - Home Affairs Committee Contents

Written evidence submitted by Study Group UK (SV13)

A 2007 report by our government stated that in 2003-04, the Education and Training export sector was worth £27.7 billion. In 2010, we estimate this to be nearly £40 billion and thus the UK's second biggest contributor to our net balance of payments, after financial services.

International students contribute £10 billion in tuition fees and living costs to the UK economy each year.

Independently audited research shows that the international students prepared by Study Group for higher education at UK Universities will spend around £120,000 each, over an average six year period, as they prepare for and then undertake Bachelor degrees, and Masters programmes. This figure covers tuition and living costs only (based on UKBA requirements).

Universities UK states that 46% of all international students admitted to UK universities come from sub-degree preparation courses. Any reduction in international students as a result of visa constraints would have a severe financial impact on a HE sector already under threat from funding cuts.

There will be major job losses in the public and private sector as a result of a cap on international students; we estimate 20,000 at sub-degree level alone.

These job losses will be concentrated in areas such as the South Coast of England where there are large numbers of private educational establishments in mainly Conservative constituencies, and in university towns and cities which are predominantly Liberal Democrat constituencies.

The Australian government has just acknowledged the negative material impact on GDP that its recent tightening of visa restrictions for international students has had. Job losses in the sector are expected to be in the thousands, including university staff.[6]

The global education sector is the largest industry sector in the world after healthcare, and one in which the UK has a pre-eminent advantage with our language and the gold standard quality of our education system.

International students can legitimately stay in the UK to study for up to eight years, as many enter the UK to study GCSEs followed by A-levels, in order to win places at UK universities.

The government's own data (from the Home Office's publication The Migrant Journey) shows that international students are not immigrants. Of the 186,500 students granted visas in 2004, only 5,568 later gained settlement rights—ie only 3%. They have a minimal effect on net migration as there are roughly the same number of students leaving the UK each year as there are entering it.

The reason many international students have to undertake preparation programmes prior to entry to a UK university is because many countries have a 12-year secondary system (in contrast to the UK's 13 years), and often both English language and study skills need to be improved.

Unlike EU students, who study at UK universities under subsidy from the taxpayer, international students provide valuable full fee income, which subsidises domestic students' places and helps to sustain the quality of research and teaching in our world-class university sector.

International students not only enrich the learning environment for domestic students and provide substantial economic support to universities, but also act as valuable ambassadors for future commercial, diplomatic and cultural ties that benefit the UK. Note David Cameron's recent trips to India and China in which he emphasised, " much we [the UK] want to welcome international students to Britain".

Every other developed country with a significant HE sector is trying to attract increasing numbers of international students, as they understand the benefits.

As international students are in fact "education tourists" and make such an important economic contribution to the UK, why on earth is our government intent on keeping them out?

January 2011

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