Cable calls out May on inflated estimates of overseas student numbers

For years the Tories told us overseas students were outstaying their welcome to the tune of 100,000. Thanks to border exit checks implemented at the insistence of the Liberal Democrats, those estimates have been proven to be not even on the same planet, let alone the same ball park. Only 4,600 students stayed after their studies were complete according to official Home Office figures.

Vince Cable said that the Tories should stop harping on about cracking down on foreign students.

This debacle happened on Theresa May’s watch at the Home Office. I spent five years in coalition battling her department’s bogus figures on this issue but she responded by erecting a wall of visa restrictions on an entirely false basis.

Cabinet Brexiteers fought a referendum campaign on a flawed prospectus, scapegoating foreign students who weren’t even here, and demonising EU citizens who are now leaving the country voluntarily.

No wonder the government has announced a review into the impact of foreign students because its economically disastrous policy was based on figures that were out by 96%.

As we argued repeatedly with Theresa May, overseas students bring huge economic benefits to universities and the broader economy. It makes no sense for students to be included in official immigration statistics.

Higher education is one of Britain’s most successful export industries, we must not let it be destroyed by the Conservatives’ short-sighted obsession with immigration targets based on spectacularly wrong data.

It is not cheap to come to this country to do a degree. There is a very strong mutual benefit from international students coming here. They get world class education, we get their money and, maybe later, if they can get a visa to work here, their skills in areas that we need them, and their not inconsiderable taxes.

Vince has basically been proved right. He spent the entire coalition having a go at Theresa May for her obsession with counting students as part of the migration figures. It’s not the first time he has called a situation correctly. Let’s hope the country starts listening to him on Brexit before it is too late.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • I’ve never understood the reasoning for including students in the immigration figures . Having said that, I’m not so certain education should be seen as an industry and to me that was always the problem with the New Labour’s introduction of tuition fees.

  • nigel hunter 25th Aug '17 - 2:45pm

    Education should not be an industry. Yes it can be a gateway to a job but it can also be a way of knowing about life other countries ideas. It is a way of learning about life, widening experiences. It should not be a straight jacket

  • Higher education is one of the UK’s most successful export industries generating a lot of the foreign earnings we need to finance our ever widening trade deficit. Studying overseas is one of great life experiences a family can give to its children. You have to be wealthy, of course. For those that don’t have the means, there is the open road and the University of life like the popular Australian working holiday.

    Mrs May, with her student visa restrictions, has caused a lot of damage to the UK higher education sector, directly benefitting US and Australian Universities who have no such problems with International students attending their Universities.

  • Every time I hear the words “students” and “fees” in whatever respect I tremble. Will we ever free ourseves of this self imposed wound.
    In the meantime I hear another “significant” police investigation is happening in respect of the Tories GE campaign 2017. This seems to be based on national issues, Data protection and other things. Will they be caught out this time and facing by elections. Suppose we will know in what 2 years time!
    Is our campaign in East Dumbartonshire in the clear?

  • Little Jackie Paper 25th Aug '17 - 11:32pm

    Glenn – It is true that most other countries generally present student numbers separate from the immigration numbers. From memory the issue in the UK was that the route to post-study work visas was easier than in other countries. That might well have changed now, and I don’t really see that students should count in the general number. Graduates certainly should.

    There is a wider question here about whether having a course sustained by foreign cash rather than academic excellence is a good thing. But on the substance of the matter I do think student visas should be presented separately.

  • The problem with all the mitigation statistics is up until April 2015 there were no embarkation checks.

    The coalition government committed in 2010 to reintroducing exit checks. From 8 April 2015, we will collect information on passengers leaving the UK as we do for those entering.

    before that

    Embarkation controls – which meant people leaving the UK were seen by an immigration officer – were ended in 1994 for those travelling from ferry ports and small ports to a European Union destination. The remaining embarkation controls were removed in 1998 as it was decided they were “an inefficient use of resources”.

    During this period any statistics produced by the government where a finger in the air job. hence why many people claimed tens of thousands of students remained as illegal immigrants. Strangely when embarkation controls where reintroduced we got some real figures

    But officials now have access to exit check data, which records actual behaviour rather than what people leaving the UK tell IPS interviewers at ports and airports about their future plans.

    When non-EU former students were departing the UK in 2015 and 2016, 28% told the IPS they were unsure how long they would be out of the UK or that they intended to return within 12 months.

    Exit checks data suggest the proportion of non-EU students who actually returned is much lower at around 6%, meaning there may have been an underestimate of long-term emigration.

    “There is no evidence of a major issue of non-EU students overstaying their entitlement to stay,” the ONS said in its report…..

    I don’t often agree with Diane Abbot but on this I do

    Labour’s shadow home secretary Diane Abbot said the exit check data showed Prime Minister Theresa May’s “long-running campaign to malign international students is based on fantasy, with no evidence of a major issue with students overstaying”.

    Yet reason for voting Brexit blown out of the water.

  • Richard Underhill 26th Aug '17 - 1:14pm

    Ian Sanderson (RM3) “circumstances in the student’s home country may change, making it unwise for them to return there. Then again, suspicion and obstruction by the authorities are to be expected.”
    Pardon my French, there is a legal term for this, which is a ‘refugee sur place’ a term which is in the text of the 1951 United Nations Convention on the status of refugees, in French.
    It also applies to people who are not students because the initial decision on behalf of the Secretary of State (often a refusal) and the decision at appeal, both have to be correct at the date they are taken.
    It is entirely possible that some caseworkers refuse to accept that ‘sur place’ is in the convention, that applicants’ solicitors advise their clients to expect refusal at initial decision and that applicants consequentially fail to marshal their facts at in initial interview creating credibility problems for themselves. The institutional bias descends from ministers, both labour and tory, while the appeals are in front of immigration judges who are independent.
    An example would be a military coup in Pakistan overturning an elected government.
    The process is different for non-asylum work in that the appeal can only be on the basis that the Home Office decision was wrong on the day it was taken.

  • I see Labour have fallen of the fence again. This time they want to stay in the single market and customs union for two, three four or even more years after Brexit. European court would still have jurisdiction and free movement would remain. You have to ask why leave if your going to keep everything the same but with the only fundamental difference being that we don’t get to have any input into the rules. Taking back control has never looked so threadbare. A sad day for the Lexiteers basically Labour are saying we need the EU so badly, anything you say will do, just as long as we can say we have left and don’t expect us to be involved in setting the rules.

    Starmer says the time for “constructive ambiguity” is over. “Labour would seek a transitional deal that maintains the same basic terms that we currently enjoy with the EU. That means we would seek to remain in a customs union with the EU and within the single market during this period. It means we would abide by the common rules of both.”

    A sad day to be a Brit when it seems we will do anything to avoid facing up to our decisions.

  • Antony Watts 27th Aug '17 - 7:02am

    Don’t fall for the neo-liberal trick. Don’t say “students bring export income for UK”. This approach just backs up the wide spread views expressed to day that everything has its price and value, and that this is the ultimate judge of whether we should do it.

  • Mike Falchikov 27th Aug '17 - 6:37pm

    Isn’t it the case that the largest number of “post-student overstayers” (i.e people whose student visas have run out)come from Australia, not any E U country?

  • Peter Hirst 28th Aug '17 - 2:33pm

    We do need reliable figures for immigration so that we can have an informed debate based on actual measurements, broken down into significant sectors.

  • David Pocock 29th Aug '17 - 10:40am

    God damn it this makes me sad and angry. So many lies doing so much damage and this truth years to late is simply too late.

    Damage is done and mayday gets out Scott free

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