From the cross-party consensus “broadly supportive of the Governments’ policy of reducing immigration”, the Home Affairs Committee today calls for restraint in the more severe restrictions lined up for overseas students.
Recognising the value of the international student market (estimated to be worth £40 billion to the UK) and the growing competition in non-Anglophone countries in providing higher education in English (notably in Germany France, China and India), the report argues that students, as a transient population which benefits the economy whilst not straining public services, should be discounted from calculations of net immigration. It calls for clarity from the Government who have issued contradictory statements and quotes Damian Green’s speeches in the commons calling for restricting student visas in pursuit of the Cap and (weeks later) the complete opposite.
The Committee strongly recommends that there be no increase in the minimum language level for Highly Trusted Sponsors at any course level. It recommends that the student visitor visa is extended to 18 months. Doubt is cast on the wisdom of closing the Post Study Work route for immigration but, given the Government is intent on doing so, it calls for tempering the plans by the introduction a 6 month visa for students to look for work after graduation (as is the case in France). It also suggests limiting the number of institutions whose qualifications entitle the holder to post study work and granting exemptions for specialist areas such as STEM research
In line with the national Audit Office report from earlier this week, the Committee calls for better accounting of immigration and the introduction of exit checks. This would give rise to the chance of real evidence based policy making which the committee would favour.
The report calls for a more moderate implementation of restrictions on student visas, whilst not opposing the restrictions per se. Moderation is preferable to what the Government appears intent on introducing, but it is opposition that is required in the interests of the well being of our universities and the wider UK economy.