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UK MPs: “Exclude students from net migration”

A cross party group of UK MPs has joined calls for overseas students to be removed from plans to reduce net migration – the number of people coming to the UK for more than a year minus those leaving.

A cross party group of MPs has joined growing calls to remove students from migration targets

"It is important that the UK does not fall behind its international competitors"

In a report released yesterday, the Home Affairs Committee says plans to reduce international student visas in line with broader targets will damage a sector worth £8bn to the economy, as well as “the cultural diversity of our universities”.

“It is important that the UK does not fall behind its international competitors in this market by making itself a less attractive option for international students,” states the report.

In November 2010, Prime Minister David Cameron announced plans to lower the number of migrants to the UK from 250,000 a year to 100,000 by 2015, which includes reducing student visas by 25%.

The government’s aim to reduce student visas by 25% would not benefit the UK

However, the committee argues the government would more easily achieve its net migration targets by not counting students, who mostly reside temporarily in the UK. Doing so would also preserve a valuable export market which faces stiff competition from destinations such as Canada, Australia and the US.

Universities UK said the report added to the growing support for policy change. “We believe that the UK, like many of our competitors – the United States, Australia and Canada – should make a clear distinction between temporary and permanent migrants” Vivienne Stern, head of political affairs at Universities UK told The PIE News.

“International students would, of course, still be counted and monitored in the migrant figures, but not caught in this specific target relating to permanent migrants.”

Pressure has been mounting on the government over the issue, although rumours earlier this month that Cameron was considering a U-turn have proved unfounded. The Sunday Times this weekend also published a letter from 37 of England’s most prominent businessmen including Martin Sorrell, chief executive of advertising giant WPP and Lord Jones, former director-general of the Confederation of British Industry urging policy change.

The report lambasts the UK Border Agency’s huge backlog of outstanding immigration cases

The Home Affairs Committee backed other of the government’s policies in its report, including plans to interview high risk student visa applicants and “unannounced, robust and thorough” inspections of suspected bogus colleges.

However, it lambasts the UK Border Agency’s huge backlog of 276,460 outstanding immigration and asylum cases which has left many students in limbo this summer. The chair of the home affairs committee, Keith Vaz,  has called for senior officials at UKBA to hand back bonuses worth £3.5m..

“The Committee reiterates its recommendations made last year that bonuses should not be paid to senior staff until this organisation carries out the intentions of parliament. Those who have received bonuses since that time must return them,” said Vaz.

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