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Recent comments in the election campaign in the UK, as reported in The Observer, suggest growing support on the Right for the removal of students from immigration statistics. I have written extensively about Theresa May’s attacks on student visas since her days as Home Secretary and her continued targeting of them as Prime Minister as a way to reduce immigration numbers to headline figures of the “tens of thousands” per year that has featured in Conservative party policy for the last couple of years.
But now a range of figures on the right are lining up to support maintaining student visa numbers. For example, from the Observer article:
….. Paul Marshall, the hedge fund manager who gave £100,000 to Vote Leave, urged May to remove foreign students from official immigration figures. She has refused to back the idea, despite pleas from Conservative MPs and universities.
As so many of us in education have been saying for a while now, there is finally recognition among politicians and those close to Westminster that undergraduate and graduate students bring great talent into the country and not only contribute at the research and academia level but often look to move into UK-based careers and stimulate the knowledge-based economy. From the financial perspective, they not only bring in millions in tuition fees to university coffers and spending in the general economy while living here, but often also open up networks of overseas investors to UK business.
Yes there are issues with graduate unemployment or underemployment, but getting rid of graduates is not a very healthy approach. Stimulating economic growth to create more graduate jobs is a much better aim and overseas graduates can themselves be part of the solution. To satisfy those with concerns about job competition, it is not too much of an ask surely to require simple immigration assessments for work visas for students who wish to stay and employers who wish to employ them. As long as an employer can show the applicant is the best person for the job and that no suitable UK citizen applied, then why deny them?
For those who bring up the old trope about non-UK citizens being able to fund themselves, well ask for proof of funds. Simple. So few people travel all the way to the UK to become students with no funds that it is laughable. As with so many “issues” the actions of a tiny minority are eld up as “proof” of what the majority do or intend and become a stick to beat them with. Enough. Most overseas students are genuine. I’d help fund their studies but at the very least the UK should be welcoming them with open arms.