The majority of Londoners don’t see foreign students studying in London as immigrants although they are counted as such in official immigration numbers, a survey for lobby group London First has found.
Polling, revealed exclusively by City A.M., shows 17 per cent of people think of non-EU international students studying in Britain as immigrants, while only 15 per cent think of EU students in Britain as immigrants.
There have been calls from MPs and business groups to remove students from official immigration numbers. Mark Field, MP for the City of London and Westminster, told City A.M.:
This is an issue I’ve been aware of for some years, but is becoming more important now.
We want to attract the best and brightest but the work the Home Office is doing to get the immigration numbers down means we’re in danger of putting people off coming here to study.
The Home Office is under pressure to reduce levels of migration, having previously promised to cut net migration to tens of thousands after it ballooned to 330,000 in the year to March 2015. Mark Hilton, immigration director at London First, told City A.M.: “The government says there’s no cap on students coming here to study. That’s simply not true if students are included in the migration target.”
The survey also found the public believes that international students provide useful global networks to promote trade with the UK (66 per cent), and pay tuition fees that contribute to the UK economy (72 per cent).
Wes Streeting, Labour MP for Ilford North, told City A.M.: “The only people that can’t get it into their heads how fantastic it is that people want to study here is the Home Office.”
Streeting added: “The UK’s competitors are the only ones cheering this policy.”
Jo Valentine, chief executive of London First, writing in today’s City A.M. said: “Our competitors, such as America and Australia, have increased the numbers they attract.”
The research found just 19 per cent of people think international students have a negative impact on public services, and just 25 per cent say they should study in their home countries.
Seamus Nevin, head of employment and skills policy at the Institute of Directors, said: “With the UK at near full employment and employers desperate for graduates who can fill a shortage of skills, the government must also look at loosening the restrictions on post-study visas to make it easier for top graduates to stay here and work.”