Chairman of Migration Watch UK
8 May 2012
The economic contribution of foreign students
Thank you for your letter of 16th April1 enclosing a booklet by Oxford Economics on the economic impact of your university on the city of Exeter and the surrounding region.
I should make it clear that Migrationwatch is not in the least opposed to international students. We recognise the benefits described in your booklet. However, they only apply if the students are both genuine and return home at the end of their courses. The two major problems with the present immigration system are that there is no test of either genuineness or intention to return. Nor is there any later check that students have actually gone home. These matters must be attended to if the wider objective of reducing net immigration is to be achieved, as a huge majority of the public wish to see. I hope that you and your colleagues will give some thought as to how departure could be assured.
Your letter highlights a 54% increase in the contribution of foreign students to Exeter’s GDP between 2010 and 2012. However, the booklet shows a 35% increase in the number of foreign students and a 72% increase in the direct contribution of fees. It seems, therefore, that there has been a very large increase in fees which, I imagine, is unlikely to be repeated.
Turning to your booklet, I noticed that the student numbers for subsistence include about 23% of EU students. These are not subject to immigration policy and are not, therefore, part of the immigration debate.
That said, the booklet looks only at income. An extra 5,000 students must involve significant costs in terms of facilities and teaching staff, some of which must be borne by the tax payer. There will also be other costs to the city in terms of additional pressure on housing and transport which are not mentioned either. None of this is to argue against the value of international students but it does seem that your booklet is giving a rather selective picture of the position.
© Copyright of Sir Andrew Green
1 The Director’s letter is based on a summary of the booklet. The summary can be found at http://www.exeter.ac.uk/international/news/international/title_200985_en.html