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Education Immigration e-briefing - Migration Advisory Committee call for evidence on international students

  • United Kingdom
  • Education - Briefings



In our briefing of 12 September 2017 we mentioned that the Government had commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to carry out a detailed study of the impact of international students in the UK.

The letter from the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, commissioning the study, specifically stated that it should include consideration of both EU and non EU students at all levels of education. The purpose of the study is to inform future government decisions in relation to student immigration. The Government has asked the MAC to advise it on the economic and the social impact of international students in the UK including advice on:

• the impact of tuition fees and other spending by international students on the national, regional and local economy and on the education sector;

• the economic and social impacts beyond education, including on the labour market, housing, transport and other services, in particular, the role that international students play in contributing to local economic growth;

• breakdown of impacts by type and level of course and institution; and

• the impact the recruitment of international students has on the provision and quality of education provided to domestic students.

MAC call for evidence

The MAC has now issued its call for evidence stating that it seeks views and evidence from anyone with relevant knowledge, expertise or experience to help inform the MAC response. Whilst the MAC has pointed out that it has been commissioned to cover all levels of education, including students in both higher and further education and also those in primary and secondary education, it is particularly keen to receive data in relation to further education as a result of what it describes as the paucity of data regarding FE.

In its call for evidence the MAC has asked a number of specific questions. Whilst these include matters such as the impact of student fees to the educational provider and asking how much money migrant students spend in the economy, there are a number of broader questions including:

• what is the impact of migrant students on the demand for housing provision, on transport (particularly local transport) and on health provision?

• what impact have migrant students had on changes to tourism and numbers of visitors to the UK?

• if migrant students take paid employment whilst they are studying, what types of work do they do?

• what role do migrant students play in extending UK soft power and influence abroad?

• what are the broader labour market impacts of students transferring from Tier 4 to Tier 2, including on net migration or shortage occupations?

• whether, and to what extent, migrant students enter the labour market when they graduate and what types of post study work do they do?

Reflecting the Government’s commission, the MAC has also asked whether different subjects and different institutions generate different impacts.

Clarification questions on the call for evidence can be sent to the MAC by 31 October 2017 and answers to any such questions will be published by 17 November 2017. The MAC says it will be arranging meetings and visits with stakeholders during the call for evidence period and those wishing to meet with the MAC should get in touch.

The deadline for submitting evidence to the MAC is 26 January 2018. The Government has asked the MAC to report by September 2018.

Briefing Note

Accompanying the call for evidence is a briefing note providing some preliminary analysis of international students in the UK. This contains some interesting statistics. The MAC says it welcomes comments and feedback on any of the issues raised in the briefing note as well as responses to the wider call for evidence.

In the briefing note the MAC acknowledges that the data on the number of international students coming to the UK has been the subject of considerable debate in recent years, resulting in the ONS and the Home Office embarking on a comprehensive programme of work. The MAC points out that the ONS International Passenger Survey latest data shows that there were 139,000 international students coming to the UK for a year or more arriving in the 12 months to March 2017 and that this number has been declining over time – from 235,000 in the 12 months to March 2010.

According to the Home Office data there were 213,729 study related visas granted in the 12 months to June 2017, an increase of 4% on the previous year. This figure includes individuals with visas granted for more than six months. The number of long term (one year or more) study related visas, excluding dependants, was 142,128 in the 12 months to March 2017, which represents a 5% increase from the previous year.

Around 80% of the visas in the Home Office data were granted to higher education students – the share of such students having increased from 50% compared with the 12 months to June 2011. In the same period the number and share of international students of tertiary or further education institutions has decreased considerably from 35% of all student visas in 2011 to only 7% in the 12 months to June 2017.

The briefing note also states that of the 2.3 million students in higher education in the UK some 14% are non EU students and 6% EU students. For postgraduate students the figures are 9% EU students and 29% non EU students whereas for undergraduates 5% are EU students and 9% non EU students. Scotland has the highest concentration of international students at 22% which is above the UK average of 19%.

Russell Group universities have the highest average amount of international students (almost 7,500) and the highest average share of international students at 30%. However, there is a great variance within these universities, with the number of international students ranging from 14,975 to 2,800. Post-1992 universities have an average of just over 3,000 international students (a 14% share), with a range of 9,715 to 1,020.

As mentioned in its call for evidence, a lot of the available data relates only to students in higher education institutions and the MAC repeats that more data is needed to get a more thorough understanding of the number of international students in the UK in other parts of the sector, particularly in further education.

In terms of the impact of international students, the MAC refers to the study earlier in the year by Universities UK suggesting that in 2014-15 international students generated £25.8 billion in gross output for the UK economy. There is also reference to a recent OECD report which concluded that whilst international students bring monetary benefits to the host nation’s economy they can put the education and training systems under pressure - although a study by NIESR in 2011 estimated that non EU students made lighter use of education, health care and social services than the average UK resident. The MAC comments, however, that the evidence on both direct and indirect impacts of international students on the UK’s economy is relatively underdeveloped, especially in regards to the FE sector and the MAC is hoping to make a substantial contribution to the debate as a result of its call for evidence.

Finally, the MAC states that in relation to staying on in the UK the latest Home Office Statistics show that around a fifth of migrants issued with a study visa in 2010 still had valid leave to remain in the UK or had been granted settlement by 2015. This proportion in fact has decreased from 31% of those issued with a study visa in 2004. The MAC comments that there is little specific evidence on the impacts of students who remain in the UK past the end of their studies and it welcomes evidence on this.

A link to the call for evidence and briefing note is here.