Government urged not to 'shut the door' on overseas students
Immigration Minister Damian Green announced in January that 'taking action on students is particularly important as they make up roughly two thirds of non-European economic area immigrants, and the number of student visas issued has been rising in recent years.' Net immigration has increased, largely because many more students from outside the EU are coming to British colleges, language schools and universities.
However, the minister also said, 'We want to encourage all those genuine students coming here to study at our world-class academic institutions.' This led to claims of a 'lack of clarity' and concern that the attempt to reduce the number of 'bogus' students and colleges might have very serious 'unintended consequences' - ie, that Britain might lose out on billions of pounds if it does not appear to be as welcoming as other countries.
Shadow universities minister Gareth Thomas said universities were 'hugely worried about the financial implications of a big drop in overseas student numbers' which would help to drive up tuition fees for home students.
As the Complete University Guide points out, the UK is the second most popular destination for students from overseas, after the USA. Here in the UK we welcome more than 350,000 international students each year, more than 20 per cent of the world's share. (For more information about what overseas students study and where, see the CUG dedicated pages.)
The chairman of the all-parties committee, Keith Vaz MP, felt student numbers should not be included in the net migration figures. He explained: 'Students are not migrants. They come from all over the world to study here, contributing to the economy both through payment of fees and wider spending. Whilst we are right to seek to eliminate bogus colleges and bogus students, we need to ensure that we continue to attract the brightest and the best... if the door is shut they will simply study elsewhere.'
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