Overseas Students Count: but should they be Counted?

The argument about overseas students being counted in migration statistics is another one of those debates that is essentially more about point-scoring than it is of any real use. If the students are removed from the stats it would facilitate a sudden massive drop in migration numbers. However, it would also give a very skewed idea of the real number of people migrating to the UK.

When overseas students, especially at higher education level, come to the UK they have to pay astonishingly high tuition fees. They also have to pay for their visa applications, and of course cover all the costs of the physical move. So it is fair to say they truly invest in their education, and they do so – in the most part – with every intention of applying that education to their lives and careers.

These are people we should take pride in as a country. The fact overseas students have chosen to come to the UK for their education should be a matter of great pride for the UK. Even more importantly, there is an increased chance that they might stay in the UK as skilled workers. That makes them an excellent investment for the country.

Overseas Students as an income source

It didn’t take me long to do some research into the fees for overseas students. It took me longer to pick myself up from the floor, though. A Tier 4 Student visa costing £335 for the application to the Home Office. The applications are not simple and unless professional representation is sought, it is very easy to fall foul of the finer details of the application. Legal fees  can be from around £800 to £1200* for the application, depending on personal circumstances. According to one leading UK University, an Undergraduate degree fees for a year are just over £15,000, rising to over £35,000 for clinical courses.

Considering that the minimum threshold for ILR applications now includes a minimum salary of £35,000, that might illustrate the magnitude of those fees. British students thought they were hard done by with their £9,000 fees, but they also have wider and easier access to funding.

So it is fair to say, in most cases, overseas students invest a significant amount of their money coming to university in the UK. In many cases they choose to remain in the UK and find jobs, or continue their studies. A very small number overstay their student visas by not applying for extensions or switching to other visas. Either way, if the system was to change so that overseas students are not counted in the migrant statistics they would need to be added if they choose to stay, or counted in some way as “leaving” when they return to their home countries. To simply discount them from the net migration figures were serve absolutely no practical purpose whatsoever.

Other than to falsely manipulate statistics for their own gains.

And since they have made such a public issue of it, they will now have to publish two figures. One for net migrants “not including overseas students,” and one for “including overseas students” – the latter being for those of us not fooled by the clearly fudged statistics.

Surely we should be welcoming people into the country – hard working, money investing people – and showing that they count. If they choose to leave, then we can discount them: it seems simple enough.

Or is there some other reason that this government doesn’t want to be transparent about migration statistics?

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