Vince Cable joins rally to press for international students to be excluded from migration figures

Photo: Geoff Caddick/PA

Yesterday the Liberal Democrat leader, Vince Cable, joined academics, students, business leaders and other politicians at a rally in support of international students. London Frist’s “Stand up don’t be counted” campaign aims to take students out of the UK’s net migration target.

The photo above shows Jonathan Bartley, co-leader of the Green Party, Jasmine Whitbread, Chief Executive of London First, Paul Currran, President of City University, Sir Vince Cable, Leader of the Liberal Democrats and Tulip Siddiq MP attending the rally in Torrington Square, London.

The government aims to reduce net migration to under 100,000 people each year. In London alone, international students bring a net benefit of £2.3 billion per annum and support 70,000 jobs in the capital.

New data released by the organisers of the event, business group London First, shows the majority of people (57%) believe that international students should not be included in the government’s net migration target, with less than one in three people (31%) thinking they should be included.

In fact, there is majority support for removing students from the target across all age groups and from around the country, including over half of Conservative Party voters (52%).

Vince Cable said:

One of Britain’s most successful export industries – higher education – is being sacrificed by Theresa May and the Home Office in pursuit of the arbitrary immigration target. It is time to exclude international students from these figures.

Yesterday’s rally was accompanied with the following letter published by London First, signed by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, the NUS and chief executives of leading UK businesses:

Time to admit that international students are not the target

The contribution that international students make to our institutions, economy, local communities and global standing is clear. It’s time to take them out of the government’s net migration target.

The government is right to clamp down on any bogus activity and the steps they’ve already taken mean we can be confident that over 97% of international students play by the rules, coming here to learn and returning home after their studies.

Now it is time to move the debate on and focus on growing one of our most successful exports. The government has been clear there is no cap on the number of international students who can come to study in the UK. But continuing to include them in the net migration target sends the opposite message.

Reporting better data would provide clarity and build trust in how the government is managing migration.

The next step should then be to build on the government’s welcome recent move to give international masters students more time to find a graduate job in the UK, and to reintroduce a post-study work visa. British educated overseas talent is an asset and this would make our country more competitive as we seek to make the best of life outside the EU.

It’s time for the Prime Minister to accept that international students are not the target, commit to smarter data and protect one of our major export sectors, sending a strong message that the UK is serious in its ambition to invest in international education.

Signed by:

Jasmine Whitbread, CEO of London First
Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London
Martin Brok, EMEA President at Starbucks
Shakira Martin, President, and Yinbo Yu, International Students’ Officer, at the National Union of Students
Mark Reynolds, CEO of Mace
Jon Skewes, Director of Policy, Employment Relations and Communications at the Royal College of Midwives
John Kampfner, CEO of Creative Industries Federation
Ken Shuttleworth, Founding Partner, Make
Jane Glanville, CEO of London Higher
George Iacobescu, CEO of Canary Wharf Group
Rob Perrins, Chief Executive of the Berkeley Group
Mark Barnett, Divisional President of UK, Ireland, Nordics and Baltic at Mastercard
John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • You know the Tories have lost the plot when the corporates are on the march against them. Good on them!

    Now if Corbyn was truly progressive he’d be on this protest. But it’s rather too international for him, as he fights for his left wing variant of Trumpist nativism.

  • The thing is Higher Education has effectively been privatised. It requires lots of paying customers. Very few foreign students stay after completing their degrees or even seek to work in Britain so the notion that they are immigrants is plainly ridiculous.

  • suzanne Fletcher 15th Feb '18 - 10:11am

    Don’t forget it has been Lib Dem policy since 2014 to take students out of the migration figures, as in “making migration work for Britain” par 1.3.1

  • Given the systems in place to regulate overseas students, visas etc., the number of students who enter the UK each year and who leave the UK each year, are among the few figures in the ONS migration data that are reliable and readily verifable.

    What I find interesting, because of this, is that no one is producing any hard data on student numbers. I suspect having done some maths on the available numbers it is because they don’t significantly impact the net migration figure.

    I suspect that what Vince and others are working on, is that people don’t really understand the ONS migration data and specifically the net migration figure.

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