Overseas students ought to be included in the immigration figures. There are no clear delineations between an economic migrant and a student visa holder and these students are inextricably linked with the social and public service pressures linked to immigration numbers.
Osborne as argued that overseas students should not be classified as migrants. There are various arguments from him and other supporters of his position.
Duration of Stay
He has said students tend to study and then go home, and that someone should not be counted as migrant if they do not settle.
But it has pointed out that students do not necessarily leave after they study. MigrationWatch has claimed that Home Office research has found that 20% of those who come on a student visa will have legally stayed 5 years and many will stay on permanently because they may get a job or get married. This means that student count towards net migration, and so it would be absurd to not count them as migrants.
But someone who comes in as a migrant will not necessarily study but may work on the black economy instead as bogus students exploit the system. Economic migrants may see the student visa as just a means of getting into the country.
Migrationwatch points to a report by the National Audit Office that found significant abuse of the Points Based System. It estimated that, despite that a student visa has conditions that ban a holder from working, that in the first year of the system about 50,000 were actually after work rather than study. Taking student visa holders as migrants will take a lot of economic migrants out of the immigration figures.
It would also be pointed out that Britain will not know who is leaving because we do not have effective exit controls. It is argued that if it is known that there is a good chance of staying with impunity then it will encourage bogus students.
In order to convince the electorate that they are serious about border controls the Tories made a pledge to reduce net immigration below 100,000 – a pledge that they have spectacularly failed at; net migration has reached 336,000 this year. Migration is currently at record levels.
Students account for the biggest proportion of migration and so, if they were removed from the migration figures, this would make a difference in producing a figure much closer to the 100,00 target. Figures are very headline friendly.
But some people would rightfully brand this figure manipulation (The Telegraph). After all, the figures will come down but the number of actual migrants would not. The figures would not reflect reality but would look more pleasing. Governments are always prepared to insult the intelligence of the electorate.
It has been suggested by the OBR that Osborne would need to increase migration, or keep it above 180,000, in order to meet his target to achieve a budget surplus by 2020, and the number of student migrants would be a major contribution to this. They expect 1.1 millions migrant between now and then. The Tory government would be prepared to increase migration because business enjoys the cheap labour that it provides and means that it would not have to employ British people. Governments are prepared to lie to people if it benefit themselves and those whom donate to their party.
A former special advisor to Theresa May has said that the government is trying to increase actual immigration in order to increase the workforce and generate more tax receipts. This would reduce the deficit as % of GDP . But the government insists that it wants to reduce immigration because it will increase employment opportunities for British nationals and will increase productivity.
Critics have criticised the OBR for not including the cost of providing for extra migrants through public services – at the same time of making cuts. That if someone is working age that they will therefore work, and if they work, that they will pay net tax. Assumptions that are false. They may not work and they may earn too little to pay tax. Also overseas students from outside the EU won’t be able to work, as condition of the visa.
It is true that there are many students who bring money in to support themselves and then contribute that into the local economy. But students also use public services and contribute substantially to housing demand, particularly the private renting sector. These are demands linked to immigration, impact the local population and so ought to be included in the immigration figures.
Vice-Chancellors will put pressure on the government to take students off the migration figures. Students, if they are genuine, will pay the full cost of their tuition (if they are non-EU), and so the more non-EU students that go to British universities then the more money that British universities will make. It would be good if universities were well-funded and were world-class but vice-Chancellors are not as interested in the interests of wider society as someone with less professional and sectional interests.
But if students were part of the migrant figures, controlled and only the best and brightest were selected then there would be no reason why universities would harmed. Bogus students do not benefit universities. The government and the universities are terrified that students won’t want to come – but surely along as you offer quality and that is known then there would demand. But if you are too open then the system will be open to abuse.