Not visitors, not guests either

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30 mei 2012 | 70 university chancellors wrote a letter to the British Prime Minister urging him to rethink his strict stance on student immigration. Students should be excluded from the migration cap. The government refutes: “Students coming to UK for over a year are not visitors.”

The British government reiterated that it is “determined to preventthe abuse of student visas as part of our plans to get netmigration down to the tens of thousands.” A group of 70 universitychancellors had voiced criticism over the British government’splan to count students into migration cap calculations. ImmigrationMinister Damian Green responded saying that “Students coming to theUK for over a year are not visitors. Numbers affect communities,public services and infrastructure.”

Press statement by UK Universities

“Nearly 70 university chancellors and chairs of councilhave written to the prime minister today urging his government tosupport the UK’s universities in their efforts to recruit genuineinternational students.

The letter has been signed by business leaders, peers fromall major parties and other prominent figures from the arts andmedia in their roles as chancellors or chairs of universities. (Seeletter below and attached.)

Signatories to the letter include former Conservativeminister Baroness Bottomley (Virginia Bottomley), writer andbroadcaster, Lord Bragg (Melvyn Bragg), former Director-General ofthe CBI, Sir Richard Lambert and former leader of the LiberalDemocrats, Sir Menzies Campbell MP.

They are backing calls for international universitystudents to be removed from net migration statistics for policypurposes, bringing the UK into line with our major competitors.They are urging the government to make a clear distinction betweentemporary and permanent migration in order to help the UK maintainits position as a world-leader in international higher educationand send out the message that the UK welcomes, and values, genuineinternational students.

Education exports threatened

The UK continues to have one of the strongest highereducation systems in the world and universities can play aconsiderable part in driving the UK’s economic growth. Countriessuch as the US and Australia have recognised the potential in thisgrowth area and are taking active steps to attract internationalstudents, broadcasting very different messages to the world thanthe UK.

The letter states: “In an age of increasing globalmobility, the number of individuals considering a universityeducation abroad is growing rapidly. In this market for talent -and export income – the UK performs exceptionally well, with 9.9%of the total market share in 2009, and export earnings of £7.9billion. International students also play an important role intowns and cities up and down the country, and contributesignificantly to local economies. There is a clear opportunity tobuild on this success, with forecasts suggesting that exportearnings from this activity could more than double by2025.”

Letter from university chancellors and chairs ofCouncil, 29 May 2012

Rt Hon David Cameron MP
Prime Minister
10 Downing Street

29 May 2012

Dear Prime Minister,

International university students: potential forgrowth

We are writing to you to urge you to support ouruniversities in their efforts to recruit genuine internationalstudents.

As chancellors and chairs of council of universitiesthroughout the United Kingdom, we welcome the measures that thegovernment has taken to improve border controls, and counter anyabuse of the student visa route.

Our universities are one of the truly outstanding featuresof the United Kingdom. They are internationally respected and, by anumber of measures, are second only to the United States inteaching, research and knowledge exchange.

In an age of increasing global mobility, the number ofindividuals considering a university education abroad is growingrapidly. In this market for talent – and export income – the UKperforms exceptionally well, with 9.9% of the total market share in2009, and export earnings of £7.9 billion. International studentsalso play an important role in towns and cities up and down thecountry, and contribute significantly to local economies. There isa clear opportunity to build on this success, with forecastssuggesting that export earnings from this activity could more thandouble by 2025. 

International students also bring significant culturalrichness and long-term political and social benefits to thiscountry, and return many benefits to the countries from which theycome.

However, global competition for international students isintense and a number of other countries are increasing theirefforts in this area.

We therefore ask you to consider how your government cando more to support our universities in their internationalactivities. In particular we request that international universitystudents be removed from the net migration statistics for policypurposes, bringing us into line with our major competitors. Webelieve that this would help government by creating a cleardifferentiation between temporary and permanent migration, helpuniversities whose international character is essential to theirfuture success, and help the UK by contributing to economicgrowth.

In this Olympic year, when our universities will behosting athletics teams and media from across the globe, we urgeyou to send a clear message that genuine international students arealso welcome in, and valued by, the United Kingdom.

  Yours sincerely”

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