Independent HE Responds to Migration Advisory Committee Report on International Students

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has today (11 September) released their report on the impact of international students in the UK, after gathering evidence from the sector and beyond over the past year.

As expected, the MAC report concludes that international students benefit the wider economy and public finances, with the average non-EEA students making a net contribution of more than £5,000 a year, compared to the average resident.

The report highlights the benefits that international students bring to UK students as well and concludes that these outweigh any potential negative impact on their educational experience. The report also recommends that the government and sector should continue to work together to grow the number of international students.

However, the MAC does not recommend that international students should be removed from the net migration statistics, as many in the sector have argued for. Instead, the report implies that the main issue is the ‘tens of thousands’ immigration target itself, and not the inclusion of students within this.

The report also recommended some amendments to the current visa rules, including extending for two years the various benefits that students currently get when switching from Tier 4 to Tier 2, allowing them the flexibility of applying for a work visa under the more relaxed rules even after they have left the UK and returned home.

Further visa changes recommended by the MAC include: allowing Tier 4 students to switch into Tier 2 as soon as they receive a job offer; extending the post-study leave period for all Master’s students from four to six months; and automatically including in the original visa the 12 months of leave which is offered to completing PhD students through the Doctoral Extension Scheme.

The All Party Parliamentary Group for International Students is currently conducting an Inquiry into a sustainable future for international students in the UK, and will be reporting back with further recommendations in the autumn.

Alex Proudfoot, Chief Executive of IHE said:

“Today’s report from the Migration Advisory Committee is a significant addition to the compelling base of evidence in support of attracting more international students to the UK. Here we have Government-appointed experts for the first time confirming the hugely positive impact of international students on the UK economy, the benefits they bring to UK students, and the absence of any adverse effect on local communities.

“These findings can lead to only one conclusion: that as a country we should do all we can to encourage more of these valuable visitors to choose the UK, and boost our slipping share of this accelerating global market. With competitors at our heels and Brexit round the corner, this moment calls for the kind of bold policy choices that the MAC seem disappointingly reluctant to recommend. Some useful tweaks to visa rules are suggested, but they won’t on their own turn the tide.

“What the report does, however, is prepare the ground for a more strategic approach to this critical issue. The Government should respond with a strong statement of support for the positive impact of international students in the UK and a clear commitment to maximising this through sustainable growth. If the UK is to remain the world leader in education it has been for so long, we need an ambitious set of goals and a strategy to achieve them.

“While the MAC report is strangely short on ideas to this end, it clearly recognises the opportunity for such ambition, calling on the sector and Government to work more closely in partnership to deliver it. Challenge accepted.”

  • On 11th September 2018