I’m deeply frustrated that the Government continues to operate net migration targets and in doing so includes international students in those statistics.
In a long awaited review the Government’s chief migration advisers have recommended woefully few changes.
International students generate over £25 billion for our economy. We value their contribution to our culture, society, ‘soft power’ abroad, not to mention the fact that they subsidise university fees for UK students. Here in Lancaster we know the importance of welcoming international students to our university and our city.
The Government must scrap the wrongheaded net migration target. The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) is right to say that it is entirely a political device, which the Tory party is using for their own party political ends, to the detriment of the country’s best interests.
In its review MAC calls for the government to make it easier for some international students to access work after study but has stopped short of recommending a post-study work visa. What a missed opportunity. Business experts say firms are struggling to fill skills gaps and vacancies are outstripping the people available – its therefore economic madness to send these talented youngsters packing as soon as their studies are over. That’s why the government should bring back a post-study work visa, take students out of the net migration target completely, and better still, scrap it.
The other issue is to do with international students feeling that they’re just not wanted here. Dame Janet Beer, President of Universities UK has said that while the UK continues to count international students as long-term migrants in its net migration target, there is a continued pressure to reduce their numbers. This adds to the perception that they are not welcome here.
She states that the government and the sector should continue to work together to grow the number of international students, but growth will only be possible if we have an immigration system that encourages talented international students to choose the UK.
Really, how difficult or expensive would it be to introduce post-study work visas given that we benefit in the long term from retaining the talent of the very students this country has educated? Once again the Government puts short-term results at the expense of long-term interests.