(Universitiesuk) – Universities UK responded today to the publication of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) report on the impacts of international students in the UK.
Responding to the report, Professor Dame Janet Beer, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Liverpool, said: “While the report recognises the enormous contribution international students make to life in the UK, we are disappointed with its main recommendations. We agree 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.
“The ability to work in a skilled job for a limited period after graduation is, for many prospective international students, an important part of the overall package when deciding where to study. Universities UK called last week for a new graduate visa that would make the UK more attractive to students and would allow a wider range of employers, in all parts of the UK, to benefit from access to talented graduates from around the world. This improved post-study visa would put us on a par with what is offered by countries such as the US, Canada and Australia.
“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. In countries such as the US, Canada and Australia, international students are classified as temporary migrants, alongside tourists and visitors. A change of policy from government in this area would have public backing. Polling suggests that the British public does not see international students as long-term migrants, but as valuable, temporary visitors.
“We know from the latest government data that there is very high visa compliance by international students. The vast majority come to the UK for a period of study, then return home.
“This is an area in which the UK can say it is truly world-leading. While the UK remains one of the most popular locations in the world for talented international students and staff, we have seen a slowdown in recent years compared to other countries. The UK could be doing much better than this, with the potential to be one of the world’s fastest growing destinations for international students and staff. There is now a real opportunity for the UK to develop an immigration policy that recognises the value of international students as temporary visitors and tells the world that they are welcome here.”