Strong Public Support For A Limit On Foreign Students

70% of the public want a limit
on the number of foreign students admitted to Britain – that was the outcome of
an opinion poll published by


The question explained that
about 250,000 foreign students from outside the EU arrive every year to study
in Britain.  They pay the full cost of studying and provide universities
and colleges with valuable income.  About one in five stay on legally
after their studies and become long-term immigrants while others return home
but, as there are still no exit checks, the number who have actually left is
not known.  Thinking about this, respondents were asked whether there
should be a limit on foreign student numbers in British colleges and
universities.  70% said that there should be a limit while 22% said there
should not and 7% did not know.    Support for a limit was
strong across political parties according to respondents’ intention to vote,
with 70% of Conservatives, 66% of Labour and 57% of Liberal Democrats in favour
of a limit.  Unusually the strongest support was in Scotland at 76%, while
the lowest was in London at 62%.  Women were more likely than men to
favour a limit by 74% to 67%.

There was also strong support
for action against bogus students.  70% thought that those found to have
insufficient English for their courses should be deported.  84% considered
that those found to be working rather than studying should be deported and 87%
thought that those who had overstayed their visas after their course had
finished should be deported.

There was also very strong
support for firmer measures to prevent people coming to the UK as students if
their real intention was to work.  This was supported by 85% (63%
strongly) and opposed by 6%.

The Migration Observatory
published a poll on 16th October 2011 which purported to show that
only 30% of the public wanted to see a reduction in student immigration. In
fact, their questions contained no factual or policy context. They simply asked
whether the number of people in particular categories coming to the UK should
be increased, reduced or kept the same. About one third thought that students
should be reduced, 40% thought that they should remain the same, and only 15%
want their number increased. This has been spun to suggest that the public were
not concerned about student immigration. Today’s poll shows that, when the
question is placed in context, they certainly are and that they broadly support
the measures that the government has in hand.

Commenting, Sir Andrew Green,
Chairman Migration Watch UK said “This gives the lie to those who have been
claiming that the public are not concerned about student inflows.  When
the questions are posed in their factual and policy context the public display
the firm common sense that one would expect”. 

Notes to Editors

1. Migration Observatory poll
questions can be found in Appendix A of the report ‘Thinking Behind the
Numbers: Understanding Public Opinion on Immigration in Britain’, October 2011. URL:

2. Students are by far the
largest category of migrant to the UK. Non-EU students have roughly trebled in
the past ten years, especially following the introduction of the Points Based
System in 2008.

All figures, unless otherwise
stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2,910 adults.
Fieldwork was undertaken between 9th – 11th September 2012.  The survey
was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative
of all GB adults (aged 18+).

17th September 2012 - Education, Visas/Work Permits

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