Conservative government officials with Prime Minister David Cameron at the top pledged to cut the number of immigrants from around 190.000 to the "tens of thousands". Foreign students will be affected by this policy as well. Experts from the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) now published a report estimating the damage this rule will bring to the British economy.
Under the current regime which aims at cutting overseas student numbers by 50.000, the British higher education sector will lose out on £2-3 billion (€2.5-3.7 billion) in economic value. Compared to a high immigration growth scenario this amount doubles to £4-6 billion (€5-7.4 billion).
Playing the migration numbers game
The IPPR argues that the current government policy of counting all foreign students for the net migration calculations is simplistic and misleading. The majority of them would not stay in the country, which is partially due to the toughening immigration regulations put forward by Cameron's coalition.
The report authors argue that instead a 15% measure should be applied, where only a share of incoming foreign students is accounted for as long-term immigrants. UK's main competitors in exporting higher education, namely the U.S., Canada and Australia, do not account for foreign students as permanent immigrants either.
"The decisive reason why the UK government is sticking with the current method of measuring student migration flows is not a genuine concern with long-term net migration but a desire to 'game' its own net migration target by banking large apparent reductions in 2013 and 2014 which reflect the limitations of the current method of measurement rather than real changes in long-term net migration trends. The government needs to take international students out of the 'immigration' numbers game, which is damaging our universities and colleges, our economy and our international standing."