Theresa May urged to scrap hostile immigration targets for EU students after Brexit

Theresa May studentsBen Stansall – WPA Pool/Getty

  • Former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan joins other MPs
    and peers in calling for Theresa May to lift students out of
    the government’s net migration target.
  • “All evidence points to taking students out of the net
    migration target,” Morgan tells BI.
  • The government controversially counts
    international students in its target to cut net migration below
    100,000, despite warnings it is deterring students from
    applying to study in the UK.
  • Britain has seen rapidly declining growth in
    applications compared to other world-leading countries in
    higher education like the US, Canada, and Australia.

LONDON — Theresa May is being urged to take international
students out of the UK’s controversial net migration target amid
warnings that the country is losing its lucrative reputation for
world-class universities.

A report launched on Wednesday said that tougher immigration
rules introduced under the Conservatives — specifically the
target to cut migration below 100,000 — are repelling
international students from applying to study in the UK and
damaging university finances.

The report, from the all-party parliamentary group on
international students, said that the “hostile environment” for
migrants introduced by May as Home Secretary had contributed to
falling numbers of international applicants.

Speaking to Business Insider, former education secretary Nicky
Morgan said that it was the “right time” to reassess the
inclusion of students in the net migration target.

“When the coalition government came in in 2010, there was a real
desire among the public to see more controls on immigration,”
Morgan said, adding that some colleges had been abusing student
rules to hand out visas illegitimately.

But she said the “mood music” had now changed on international
students. “All evidence points to taking students out of the net
migration target and that’s why this report is welcome,” she

The report also recommended a host of other measures to attract
more international students, including a more generous visa
system which would allow students to stay in the UK to work after
completing their studies.

“Losing in the battle”

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According to the report, the growth rate of international
students in the UK over between 2012 and 2015 was just 0.7%,
compares with 22.5% in the US, 26.9% in Canada, and 18% in

Lord Bilimoria, co-chair of the international students APPG, said
that Britain was “losing in the battle” to attract international

“Eight years of prioritising an impossible target using
misleading statistics, over our economy and world-leading
institutions has left the UK’s position as the second largest
destination for international students in jeopardy,” he said.

“It’s time for us to move on and target growth in the number of
international students.”

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