A DAMNING report has urged the Westminster government to “think again and change course” over its policy on immigration or risk further undermining the country’s universities.
• A recommendation had been in place for overseas students to be recorded under a seperate classification
• A report published in September said the UK needed a policy which showed it welcomed overseas students
• A second paper published today accused ministers of a ‘complete lack of understanding of the urgency’ required
MPs on the House of Commons’ Business, Innovation and Skills Committee said the government had failed to listen to its recommendation that overseas students should be recorded under a separate classification and not be counted against the overall limit on net migration.
In a report published in September, the committee had said the UK needed a policy which showed it “welcomed” overseas students and valued the contribution they make to the economy.
Following the government’s response to that report earlier this week, the committee published a second paper in which it accused ministers of a “complete lack of understanding of the urgency” required to avoid a situation where thousands of students are put off from studying in the UK.
Universities Scotland called for a re-think after figures from the Higher Education Statistics Authority (HESA) showed the number of Indian students at Scottish universities fell by 25.8 per cent in 2011-12 compared with the previous year, while there was a 24.9 per cent fall in those from Pakistan and a 14.1 per cent drop in students coming from Nigeria.
Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that study remains the most common reason given for migrating to Britain, with 197,000 foreign students arriving in the year to June, down 17 per cent in the previous year.
In the report published, the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee said the government’s response to its earlier report of last September had “fallen short of the level of quality” expected.
It added: “The government’s timetable to publish a strategy sometime between now and next summer is unacceptable. It shows a complete lack of understanding about the urgency which is required.
“The government’s response was late, woefully short on detail and fails to take account of recent developments. It seeks to underplay the urgency of the problem and thus excuse the failure to act decisively to address this serious matter. The government should listen, think again and change course.”
Commenting on the report, Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland, added: “We join the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee in its frustration at the UK government’s decision to ignore advice from five UK parliamentary committees that international students should not be included in net migration figures.
“We urge the UK government to take this advice on board and support our universities and their international outreach.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Students will remain in the net migration statistics because they are not temporary visitors and have an impact on communities, public services and infrastructure.
“We are determined to prevent abuse of the student route as part of our plans to get net migration down to the tens of thousands.
“But we are not harming genuine students - latest student visa and UCAS application figures show that our changes are having the right effect. More university students are coming here and bogus students are being kept out.”