On Sunday Theresa May informed the press of her intention for the Conservative Party’s next manifesto to include a pledge to kick out foreign students as soon as they graduate and introduce a shift to a ‘zero net student migration’ level. Rather than being able to apply for other visas while still in the UK, foreign graduates would have to go home and apply to return. Universities would have to enforce this, risking fines or losing their sponsorship licence if they failed to take sufficient steps to enforce it. Tom Bailey takes a closer look at this idea and where it came from.
It has been an interesting week. We have grappled with the apparent outcome of the government’s student number policy, we have struggled to understand whether disaggregating international students from net migration figures will really make a difference. As an academic exercise these are fascinating, layered as they are with perverse incentives and a range of consequences both intended and unintended. Wider public perceptions about higher education and related issues matter because politicians care about what voters think. In HE, there is a growing imbalance between the priorities of the sector and societal attitudes that must be better understood by universities and policy makers alike.
The immigration minister Damian Green gave a speech yesterday to the think tank Reform explaining the proposals set out by the UK Border Agency in its consultation on student visas.
The legal firm Pennington’s, who are experts in immigration law, suggested this week that the consultation itself could be illegal.
The Conservatives pledged to lower net migration to the ‘tens of thousands’ in their General Election manifesto. Since taking office they have realized that through a quirk of data processing that counts student in net migration figures even though very few international students take up permanent residence in the UK, enacting this pledge would require drastic cuts to international student numbers.