Sep 05 2017

Over the past month you may have read in the media that the Office for National Statistics published a report relating to international students and (net) migration.  The Home Office also published exit check data and, at the same time, announced that the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has been asked to complete a detailed study of the impact of international students in the UK.

Royal Holloway is one of the UK’s most international universities, we are strengthened by the diversity of nations represented, and so the reports and the announcement of the study are welcome developments.

Some of the key findings from the reports are;

  • Exit checks data shows that student overstaying is at worst 3% and much of the 3% of undetermined outcomes may be due to individuals leaving via routes where there are no exit checks currently (such as via the Common Travel Area). This means student visa compliance is at least 97%, far higher than previous (incorrect) claims;
  • The Home Office exit checks data provides a more accurate picture (than the International Passenger Survey - IPS) of what non-EU students do after their initial period of leave to study;
  • The ONS report suggests that the IPS is likely to underestimate student emigration – therefore any implied student net migration figure is likely to be an overestimate;
  • The majority of students do not intend to stay in the UK for more than a year after finishing their studies (and those that stated they intended to stay were not certain of their post-study plans, particularly non-EU students);
  • Less than one in ten international students plan to stay in the UK indefinitely and find a job.

On behalf of its members, including Royal Holloway, Universities UK (UUK), released a response welcoming the ONS’s commitment to improving the immigration data to inform the future understanding of student migration patterns and reinforced its commitment to work with the ONS and the Home Office on the MAC review, which is expected to report back by September 2018.

In her commissioning letter to MAC, Home Secretary Amber Rudd stated;

‘The analysis of exit checks data published today shows that the overwhelming majority of students whose visa expired in 2016/17 were recorded as having left in-time.’ The letter goes on to say: ‘The MAC has never undertaken a full assessment of the impact of international students, and given the new exit checks data, we would like to have an objective assessment of the impact of international students which includes consideration of both EU and non-EU students at all levels of education….This assessment should….give the Government an improved evidence base for any future decisions whilst the ONS goes through the process of reviewing the contribution it thinks students are making to net migration.’

In addition, the MAC is expected to consider:

  • The impact of tuition fees and other spending by international students on the national, regional, and local economy and on the education sector;
  • The role international students play in contributing to local economic growth;
  • The impact that international student recruitment has on the provision and quality of education provided to domestic students.
As active members of UUK, we will continue to support their co-ordinated efforts to seek the best outcome for our students and colleagues, so that the UK remains an attractive and welcoming destination.
You can read more about the impact of Brexit discussions on our EU Hub.