Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF
28th Aug 2017

UK: Net migration questioned again as new data shows 97% of international students leave in time

New data from border exit checks has led the UK’s Office for National Statistics to conclude that “there is no evidence of a major issue of non-EU students overstaying their entitlement to stay.” In fact, a corresponding report from the Home Office finds that 97.4% of foreign students leave the country before their study visa expires. Foreign students in the UK have remained part of the government’s net migration calculations in large part because of earlier official estimates that nearly 100,000 students per year overstay their visas. Those estimates have often been challenged by British educators, and indeed there have been some indications that actual number of overstaying students is considerably lower. The question as to whether international students should figure in the country’s net migration targets has also been contentious within the government, most recently in May of this year when it appeared that Prime Minister Theresa May may have moved to exclude foreign students from net migration counts. This is not merely a question of bureaucracy or statistics. Foreign students’ inclusion in the net migration target has had demonstrable effects on international education in the UK in recent years, especially as the government’s broad policy direction of reducing migration levels has led it to introduce a number of proposals that have constrained work rights for international students, raised visa fees, imposed tighter controls on student immigration, and expanded monitoring and reporting responsibilities for British institutions. Against this backdrop, the new Home Office exit check data represents a major finding that again calls into question the current policy of including international students in annual net migration figures. Rather than the nearly 100,000 overstaying students suggested by earlier government estimates, the new border checks reveal the actual number of students who overstay was just over 4,600 for 2016/17. “These two official reports show that there is very high visa compliance by international students,” said Universities UK Chief Executive Alistair Jarvis. “The number of students overstaying their visas is a tiny fraction of previous (incorrect) claims.” Russell Group Acting Director Dr Tim Bradshaw added, “This exit check data confirms that in addition to helping create a diverse learning environment and making a big economic impact, an overwhelming majority of international students comply fully with the terms of their visas.”

A fresh look at international students

Just as this new data was being released last week, Home Secretary Amber Rudd also announced that she has asked an expert panel to undertake a new study of the impacts of foreign students on the UK economy. The Home Secretary’s commissioning letter to the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) strikes a notably more positive tone with respect to international recruitment. “There is no limit on the number of genuine international students which educational institutions in the UK can recruit, and, equally importantly, the Government has consistently made clear that it has no plans to limit any institution’s ability to recruit international students,” said the Home Secretary. “As long as students leave at the end of their studies, they should not be significantly contributing to net migration, and therefore there is no conflict between our commitment to reduce net migration and to attract international students.” Referring to the new border exit data, Ms Rudd added, “The analysis of exit checks data published today shows that the overwhelming majority of students whose visa expired in 2016/17 were recorded as having left in-time.” The MAC will now examine the direct economic impacts associated with foreign student spending in the UK, as well as the broader social and economic impacts of international education in the country. The committee has been asked to file its report by September 2018. For additional background, please see: • “Applications to British universities fall 4% overall” • “UK ELT declines for third straight year” • “Measuring up: Global market share and national targets in international education” • “UK: Is the net migration question back on the table?

Most Recent

  • UK confirms Graduate Route will remain in place; plans “crackdown” on student visas and “rogue agents” Read More
  • Will the US host 2 million international students within the decade? Read More
  • Ghanaian students are intent on study abroad but currency woes present a challenge Read More

Most Popular

  • Canada’s foreign enrolment grew by more than 30% in 2022 Read More
  • Measuring cost of study and cost of living across study destinations Read More
  • Recruiting in the Emirates: Big goals, world-class education, and new scholarships Read More

Because you found this article interesting

UK confirms Graduate Route will remain in place; plans “crackdown” on student visas and “rogue agents” Ahead of a snap general election called for 4 July 2024, and after months of speculation, a joint...
Read more
Will the US host 2 million international students within the decade? A new analysis from international research firm HolonIQ sets out four future growth scenarios for foreign enrolment in...
Read more
Ghanaian students are intent on study abroad but currency woes present a challenge Ghana’s ascent as a key emerging student market is well illustrated by recent enrolment growth in leading destinations....
Read more
UK ELT posts another year of growth to reach 75% of pre-pandemic volumes in 2023 The UK’s English Language Teaching (ELT) sector continued its post-pandemic recovery last year, enrolling more students and delivering...
Read more
Survey of Japanese agents indicates significant recovery in outbound student numbers for 2023 The annual survey of The Japan Association of Overseas Studies (JAOS) has just been released. This year’s survey...
Read more
Data shows a decline in Nigerian student searches for study abroad; UK may be hardest-hit Nigeria has been one of the most important new sources of students for leading study destinations worldwide in...
Read more
ICEF Podcast: How policy interventions are impacting student planning for study abroad Listen in as ICEF’s Craig Riggs and Martijn van de Veen check in on how foreign exchange trends...
Read more
EU sets goal of sending at least 23% of university students and 12% of VET students abroad by 2030 Erasmus+, already the world’s largest student mobility programme, will play a significant role in a new goal set...
Read more
What are you looking for?
Quick Links