British Academy urges Government to act on reclassification of overseas students

11 Sep 2012

The British Academy welcomes the report on Overseas Students and Net Migration issued on 6 September by the House of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Committee and echoes its call on the government to record overseas (non-EU) students under a new classification outside the net migration limits, to allow the UK to attract more overseas students.

The Academy’s President Sir Adam Roberts set out the Academy’s longstanding anxieties over the adverse impact of current immigration policy on overseas students at its AGM on 19 July, and expressly called for them to be treated as a separate and distinct category. 

He said today:  “We are very pleased to note that the Committee explicitly acknowledges the strength of UK Universities and their attraction to overseas students. We have argued for many months that current Government immigration policies risk seriously damaging the recruitment of international students and we hope the Government will now take action and change the way it classifies overseas students. It makes no sense to classify them as migrants.”

He added: “If it fails to act, the UK government risks bringing serious reputational damage to the UK higher education system, and perpetuating the perception among overseas students that we do not wish them to study here. If this situation continues, UK universities will lose their strong position in an increasing competitive global higher education market."

Noting that the rate of growth in recruiting overseas students is in decline, the Commons Committee says (in paragraph 15 of its report):

“It is clear that the Government’s policies in respect of student immigration have played a significant part in this decline. UK universities are an export success story and the fact that they are taking an increasingly pessimistic view of future projections should be of deep concern to the Government. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has a responsibility to support UK universities, and to promote export success. As a matter of urgency it needs to demonstrate that it has an active strategy to support the expansion of this important and lucrative market.”

It goes on to say (in paragraph 39 of its report):

“We recommend that, for domestic policy purposes, overseas students should be

recorded under a separate classification and not be counted against the overall limit on net migration. That does not mean that we wish to hide the level of overseas students studying in the UK. The Government could make clear the distinction by publishing, alongside its net migration data, detailed information on the number of overseas students studying in the UK, their country of origin, the number who remain here after they have completed their studies and the number who remain in higher education. Such an approach would make clear the difference between permanent immigration and study and crucially it would demonstrate clearly that the United Kingdom welcomes overseas students and values the contribution they make to our economy.”

The Committee’s report can be read here. Sir Adam Roberts’ speech to the Academy’s AGM in July is available here.

Editor’s notes:

  • For more information or interviews, please contact Kate Rosser Frost, Press & PR Manager at the British Academy on k.rosserfrost@britac.ac.uk or 020 7969 5263.

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