Destination for Education’s expectations for the MAC report

The Migration Advisory Committee, which was commissioned by the government in 2017 to assess the impact of international students in the UK, will be publishing its findings in a report on Tuesday 11th September 2018. This is a once in a generation opportunity for this government to do right by international students and the UK’s higher education sector. As Sam Gyimah, the Universities minister, said earlier this week in anticipation of the report – “If we want a university system that is global and competitive, then we should be looking at a more open approach to international students.”

Below we have set out seven questions which should be considered when the report is published on Tuesday.

Eight questions to look out for when the Migration Advisory Committee publishes its report on international students

  1. Does the Committee recognise the significant economic contribution made by international students across the UK (research published by the Higher Education Policy Institute and Kaplan shows in January 2018 that the net contribution of international students to the UK economy -net of all costs, is £20.3 billion[1])?
  2. Does the Committee recognise that, because of Government policy, the UK is now falling behind its international competitors in attracting international students (research published by University College London’s Centre for Global Higher Education showed that the UK is being pushed into third place behind the United States and Australia in the competition to attract international students)?
  3. Does the Committee set out recommendations that would allow Britain to regain its place as the world’s leading destination for international students, such as the creation of a cross-departmental strategy for international student growth, as Destination for Education has repeatedly called for?
  4. Does the Committee’s work show that previous Government claims that between 40,000 and 90,000 international students overstay their visas have no basis in fact?
  5. Does the Committee accept that there is no basis to claims that students place significant additional strain on public services such as healthcare and housing? 
  6. Does the Committee recommend changes to the needlessly cumbersome visa application process, that sees potential students being forced to travel thousands of miles to third countries for language tests that used to be carried out much nearer to their homes?
  7. Does the Committee agree with Destination for Education that students should no longer be treated as migrants in Government policy, and should be removed from the Government’s Net Migration Target?
  8. Does the committee recognise the need for a new visa that would allow international students to gain work experience and find employment for a specified period post-graduation, as recommended by Universities UK[2].

Sarah Williamson, a spokesperson for Destination for Education, commented:

“We should be proud of the international students who choose to study here and stop treating them as a problem. Britain’s universities, businesses across the country and committed international students from around the world are hoping that the publication of the Migration Advisory Committee’s report will bring an end to the Government’s damaging rhetoric and restrictive policies.”

“To regain our place as the world’s leading destination for international students, we need a complete change in approach from Government: seizing the export opportunities presented by international education by creating a cross-department strategy to attract committed students from around the world and simplifying a visa system that has become far too complex and cumbersome.

“Destination for Education is hoping for a fresh start following the publication of Tuesday’s report. We are looking forward to working with Ministers to ensure that the upcoming Immigration Bill contains measures that will restore our position as the world’s most attractive destination for international students.”

Notes to editors 

  • Destination for Education is a coalition of five pathway providers working together to ensure that Britain’s Higher Education sector can compete globally. These pathway providers include: Cambridge Education Group, INTO, Kaplan, Navitas and Study Group 
  • Pathway providers prepare international students for study at UK universities. We help international students to develop the study and language skills they need to succeed at degree level which they have not had the opportunity to attain in their local education systems. As a group, we partner with universities across the United Kingdom at institutions across the UK. A full list of these institutions can be found in Appendix A.

The impact of international students on the UK

  1. Higher education is one of the UK’s most successful export industries. The total net impact of hosting international students in the 2015/16 academic year totalled £20.3 billion, with £16.3 billion of net impact generated by non-EU students in the cohort and £4.0 billion of net impact generated by EU students[3]
  2. At present, international students enter the UK via the Tier 4 migrant visa route. Research conducted by the National Institute for Economic and Social Research on the impact of migrants on public services found that the average costs for Tier 4 migrants are substantially lower for education, personal social services and for health (35 per cent to 51 per cent lower for education; 41 per cent to 48 per cent lower for personal social services and 45 per cent to 48 per cent lower for health)[4].
  3. However, latest Higher Education Statistics Authority Data shows that, in total, 72 British universities have lost over 43,000 international students over the past five years. These students would have supported around 24,000 jobs and brought £920m positive economic impact to these universities and their local economies: 50% of the jobs would have been in the local economies and 50% in the universities.
  4. International students play a key role in promoting the future sustainability of UK universities and help to pay for higher-cost disciplines such as STEM subjects and university research. The sustainability of STEM courses is important given the strategic value of these degrees for the UK - 51% of students studying Computer Science at Russell Group universities are international[5].
  5. The contributions that international students bring to the UK is more than just economic – they bring numerous social and cultural benefits which add to the vibrancy of our higher education institutions.
  6. Domestic students recognise the great contributions that international students bring - a survey commissioned by HEPI/HEA in 2015 indicates that over three-quarters of respondents believe that studying alongside people from other countries is ‘useful preparation for working in a global environment’[6] and 75% of UK students agree that international students should have the right to work in the UK after graduation[7].
  7. This international mobility of students promotes a deeper understanding of UK cultures and values. Statistics show that those who rate the UK highly for culture, education and tourism are 30% more likely to trade or invest in the UK, whilst those who studied in the UK are 18% more likely to trade with or invest in the country.
  8. In 2018, the UK relinquished its leading position as the nation that has educated the most world leaders to the USA[8].  57 of the 377 serving heads of state and heads of government attended universities in the UK - an enormous source of soft power for the UK that we cannot afford to lose. Notable alumni include, former US president Bill Clinton, former Australian president Tony Abbott and Nobel prize winner Wole Soyinka. In 2018, the UK relinquished its leading position as the nation that has educated the most world leaders to the USA[9].
  9. Britain now faces unprecedented competition from established markets such as Australia and Canada as well as newer markets in the far East and Europe.
  10. Australia, Canada and New Zealand all offer international graduates the opportunity to stay and work for at least a year following graduation. The US and Canada offers up to three years and Australia up to four years, depending on the subject and qualification studied and length of original degree. In August 2018, the New Zealand government announced an expansion of its post-study work right for international students. This is part of its strategy to attract internationals students to study at higher levels in New Zealand and to preserve a pathway to residence for students that meet the skills needs of the nation. These provisions have made New Zealand the second most generation nation in the world for post-study work options[10]. Countries such as Malaysia, China and the UAE have also adopted international student strategies.[11]

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Destination for Education is backed by a broad range of supporters, including: The UK’s leading universities; Pathway providers who help prepare international students for study in the UK; Business representatives; Campaign groups.