The newly elected Britain Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is reportedly considering a crackdown on foreign students as net migration reached its highest level since the Second World War. Against this background, an Indian diaspora-led students’ organisation has urged the UK government to remove international students from the country’s overall immigration statistics.
Downing Street has said that “all options” to bring overall migrant numbers down are on the table. The National Indian Students and Alumni Union (NISAU) UK, which campaigns for streamlined provisions for Indian students studying in the UK, said any move to arbitrarily rank universities would prove counterproductive in the long run.
“Students who are in the UK temporarily, should not be counted as migrants,” said NISAU UK Chair Sanam Arora.
International students, of which Indians are the biggest cohort, bring a net revenue of GBP 30 billion into the British economy. Besides, the UK’s higher education sector is one of our largest exports to the world. Therefore, Arora said, “We are hopeful that the government will ensure that there is no arbitrary definition of what counts as a ‘top’ university”.
The group called for a “creative and innovative policy solution” that addresses the UK’s skills and labour shortages through its international graduates.
The Universities UK International (UUKi), which represents over 140 UK universities, also sounded a note of caution over any policy moves to cut down international student number.
“Cutting international student numbers would run directly counter to the UK government’s strategy to welcome more students from around the world,” said UUKi Chief Executive Vivienne Stern.
“International students make an enormous cultural and financial contribution to the UK. They help make our campuses and cities the vibrant, thought-provoking places they are known for being. They sustain jobs in towns and cities up and down the country,” she said.
“Beyond this, the financial contribution they make has been very significant for UK universities. Limiting international students would be an act of self-harm that would damage many parts of the UK,” she added.
According to the latest data by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), net migration to the UK rose from 173,000 in the year to June 2021, to 504,000 in the year to June 2022 – an increase of 331,000 post-Brexit.