Five Questions for the new Home Secretary

                                   Five Questions for the new Home Secretary

03 May 2018

Destination for Education, the campaign to ensure that the UK re-establishes itself as the leading destination for international students, has set out 5 questions for the newly-appointed Home Secretary.

1. Will the Home Secretary consider the human cost of administrative failings in student immigration policy.

The Windrush Scandal has exposed the human cost of policy failures based on faulty evidence and poor administration. It is increasingly clear that international students have been similarly poorly treated in many cases. Members of the Destination for Education coalition have been calling for the Home Secretary’s predecessors to shift their approach on international students to one based on evidence, and that this is clearly in the UK’s economic interest. Comments from the Home Secretary have suggested that a change in culture in the Home Office may be forthcoming. Such a change will be welcomed by international students, whose studies have been disrupted by poor policy and institutional inertia within Government and prospective international students who are right now making a choice as to which country they will study in and contribute to.

2. Will the Home Secretary engage with Britain’s emerging growth companies to design an international visa policy that works for the UK’s economy?

It is bizarre that the UK’s world class universities train international students from around the world, but that there is no easy option for highly educated and skilled students to help drive the growth of the next generation of British businesses, particularly where there are acute skills shortages.  This stands in stark contrast to the offering in competitor countries.  The current ‘Tier 4 pilot’ is open to too few universities, which provides some flexibility in this area but does not address the needs of British business nor indeed those of the students themselves. 

3. Will the Home Secretary commit to evidence based revisions of student visa policy?

For too long, Student Visa policy has rested on baseless assumptions, rather than clear evidence. The Home Secretary’s predecessors wrongly claimed that between 40,000 and 90,000 international students were overstaying their visas. Last summer it was revealed by the Office for Statistics Regulation that these claims were based on “experimental statistics”. The consequence has been nearly a decade of constrictive student immigration policy that has seen Britain lose its status as a leading destination for international students to Australia and Canada , just as other countries are bolstering their attractiveness to international students, driven by national strategies built on consensus between governments and other stakeholders.

4. Will a removal of students from the net migration target lead to an export-focused approach to student visas?

 There appears to be a clear consensus within Government, Parliament and the public for the removal of students from the net migration target. International students make no identifiable contribution to net migration, so their removal from the target will not impact the headline figure. But their inclusion within the calculation places student immigration policy in an inappropriate context. International education is a leading export that should be nurtured, and student visa policy should be part of this. We should treat international students in the same way we treat tourists, as a valuable contributor to the UK’s economic future as we leave the European Union, notwithstanding their massive contribution to our soft power.

5. Will the Home Office commit to bring forward an Immigration Bill in good time before the UK leaves the European Union?

The Home Secretary’s predecessor has repeatedly delayed the publication of the Immigration Bill. This is essential for the education sector, and British business, to have the certainty it needs on visa policy if they are to make long-term plans as Britain leaves the European Union. 

James Pitman, Managing Director, at Study Group and a member of the Destination for Education coalition said:

“It’s time for a new approach at the Home Office. For too long international students have been the subject of poor policy-making and institutional inertia. The cost has been the loss of Britain’s status as a leading destination for international students.

“We welcome indications made by the Home Secretary that the culture within the Home Office will change. We are looking forward to working with him, and putting our questions to him in due course”   

                                                           - ENDS-


Contact: Destination for Education,

+44 1273 830151


Brunswick Group

+207 404 5959


About Destination for Education

Destination for Education is a coalition of education providers that wants to maintain the UK’s position as one of the leading exporters of education.

The campaign is led by five Pathway Providers who prepare international students for study at British Universities: Cambridge Education Group, INTO, Kaplan, Navitas and Study Group.

Notes to editors

  • The UK is seen abroad as a hostile environment for students to come and study. This article in the Hindustan Times from September 2017 reflects this view, stating that: “The British may have the top universities, but they also offer the most student-hostile government in the world. The Conservative government, in power since 2010, when the number of Indian students started falling drastically, has pledged loudly to reduce immigration into Britain.

    To fulfil that pledge they have made life hard as they can for foreign students.”

  •  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 international students in the cohort and £4.0 billion of net impact generated by EU students.  
  • While the number of international students coming to the UK stagnates, the numbers going to our competitors, such as Australia and Canada continues to increase as their governments take measures to promote the contribution of international students and encourage them to come and study. 
  • 58 heads of state from around the world have been educated at the UK’s universities – a major source of soft power.


News and Articles

We are working hard to support universities’ ability to attract international students. Updates can be found here.

29 Jan 2019

Immigration Bill Briefing

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill   Destination for Education is a ...


18 Jan 2019

Home Office must reassess its practices

Responding to the Financial Times report on the Home Office, Sue Edwards, Director of Compliance and...


06 Nov 2018

It's time to take the brakes off international education

It is time for the government to take the brakes off international education and work with the secto...



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.