LONDON — Theresa May is being urged to take international students out of the UK’s controversial net migration target amid warnings that the country is losing its lucrative reputation for world-class universities.
A report launched on Wednesday said that tougher immigration rules introduced under the Conservatives — specifically the target to cut migration below 100,000 — are repelling international students from applying to study in the UK and damaging university finances.
The report, from the all-party parliamentary group on international students, said that the „hostile environment” for migrants introduced by May as Home Secretary had contributed to falling numbers of international applicants.
Speaking to Business Insider, former education secretary Nicky Morgan said that it was the „right time” to reassess the inclusion of students in the net migration target.
„When the coalition government came in in 2010, there was a real desire among the public to see more controls on immigration,” Morgan said, adding that some colleges had been abusing student rules to hand out visas illegitimately.
But she said the „mood music” had now changed on international students. „All evidence points to taking students out of the net migration target and that’s why this report is welcome,” she said.
The report also recommended a host of other measures to attract more international students, including a more generous visa system which would allow students to stay in the UK to work after completing their studies.
„Losing in the battle”
According to the report, the growth rate of international students in the UK over between 2012 and 2015 was just 0.7%, compares with 22.5% in the US, 26.9% in Canada, and 18% in Australia.
Lord Bilimoria, co-chair of the international students APPG, said that Britain was „losing in the battle” to attract international students.
„Eight years of prioritising an impossible target using misleading statistics, over our economy and world-leading institutions has left the UK’s position as the second largest destination for international students in jeopardy,” he said.
„It’s time for us to move on and target growth in the number of international students.”