Letters to the Prime Minister: Universities warn of loss under new immigration rules and Minister Green’s response

UNIVERSITIES across the UK have warned the Prime Minister they will lose millions of pounds every year under tougher immigration policies, The Herald Scotland reported. In a letter to the David Cameron, 68 chancellors, governors and university presidents warned the Westminster Government’s crackdown on immigration could lead to foreign students going elsewhere. Signatories include former Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell, chancellor of St Andrews University. 

The moves come after the Coalition’s decision to tighten up the issuing of student visas as part of wider restrictions on immigration. The UK attracts around one in 10 foreign students, generating around £8 billion a year in tuition fees. Professor Eric Thomas, president of Universities UK, said: “The UK seems to be telling the world it doesn’t welcome international students, while other countries are travelling in different directions.

“We are requesting that international university students should be removed from the net migration statistics for policy purposes.” All signatories warn Britain was losing out to its “major competitors”, which class foreign students as temporary rather than permanent migrants.

In response, Minister Damian Green has rejected calls from 70 of Britain’s universities to stop counting foreign students as immigrants.Under the current rules the net migration figures (the number of people moving to the UK minus the number leaving the UK) also count students as an emigrant if they have been in the UK for at least a year when they leave. This means that any student who came to the UK to study for more than a year and then left would effectively cancel themselves out in the figures over time.

Mr Green told BBC News: “A student who comes here for a six month language course doesn’t count as an immigrant but if you come here for three years, or four year, or five years, then you are not a visitor, you are an immigrant under the international definition, so we count you as an immigrant.”

He admitted that the coalition government, according to figures published so far, had made “no progress” towards meeting its pledge of reducing net migration to “tens of thousands” a year. But he said that the next set of figures – for the current year – would show that the government was on course to meet its target.

Mr Green said the new rules were aimed at closing down “bogus” colleges and there was “no reason” why British universities would not be able to continue attracting the “brightest and the best” students from around the world, BBC reported.

The Herald Scotland article can be found here. 
The BBC article can be found here.